Monday, January 26, 2015
We recently reported that the New York Second Department had reduced a New Jersey disbarment to a two-year reciprocal suspension.
The Maryland Court of Appeals went the other way today -- a six-month suspension from Virginia drew disbarment as reciprocal discipline.
Disbarment is the appropriate sanction in a reciprocal discipline action involving an attorney who was suspended from the practice of law for six months in Virginia for making repeated misrepresentations to the court, failing to appear at scheduled hearings, and bringing a baseless proceeding, who then failed to notify Bar Counsel of discipline imposed against him in another jurisdiction.
...Buehler misled Virginia courts on multiple occasions, claiming that he had not received notice of scheduled hearings when indeed he had. This sanctionable behavior occurred at least three times. Furthermore, upon receiving a six month suspension from the Virginia State Bar, Buehler committed a misrepresentation by omission, failing to notify the AGC of his Virginia sanction. It is also significant that Buehler repeatedly failed to appear at hearings and frequently delayed the judicial process. “We have said in applying MLRPC 1.3 that this Court has consistently regarded neglect and inattentiveness to a client’s interests to be [an ethical violation] warranting the imposition of some disciplinary sanction.” Att’y Grievance Comm’n v. Garrett, 427 Md. 209, 223, 46 A.3d 1169, 1177 (2012) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Buehler’s conduct was similar to that in Garrett. There, this Court disbarred an attorney for “failing to appear for a scheduled hearing and not communicating with the court, client, or opposing counsel during the two weeks preceding the hearing.” Id. at 221, 46 A.3d at 1176. Buehler, on more than one occasion, failed to attend hearings and conferences and later attempted to undo that ethical lapse by claiming that he had no knowledge of their existence. This pattern of misconduct when viewed in the context of Buehler’s other violations warrants disbarment.
The court concluded that the attorney's "gravest transgressions are his repeated misrepresentations" and also considered his failure to report the Virginia suspension to Maryland authorities.
My take: Even though I think Virginia is light on attorney crime to an extreme degree, I am uncomfortable with converting a six-month consent suspension into a reciprocal disbarment. (Mike Frisch)