Tuesday, June 30, 2020
The Maryland Court of Appeals has disbarred an attorney for, among other things, misconduct in her own bankruptcy.
The instant attorney discipline case fortifies the import of this age-old adage often attributed to President Lincoln. Regrettably, the underlying conduct involves an attorney’s overzealous self-representation in a voluntary bankruptcy proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland (“Bankruptcy Court”). Over the course of the nearly three-year bankruptcy proceeding, among other things, the attorney filed countless frivolous pleadings, motions, and appeals, intentionally hindered the court appointed trustee’s ability to administer the case, and knowingly made false statements of fact in filings and appeals before the Bankruptcy Court and United States District Court for the District of Maryland (“U.S. District Court”).
Moreover, this attorney represented several clients in Maryland’s circuit courts, the Court of Special Appeals, and the Bankruptcy Court. In these instances, among other things, the attorney misappropriated client funds, made knowing misrepresentations to and intentionally concealed information from clients, and failed to prosecute clients’ motions and appeals.
This attorney’s conduct violated sixteen separate provisions of the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct (“MARPC”). For the reasons that follow, we hold that this attorney’s conduct merits disbarment.
In this case, we have concluded that Ms. Smith-Scott engaged in intentional dishonest conduct and that she misappropriated client funds entrusted to her. While this conduct is troubling in its own right, the magnitude of Ms. Smith-Scott’s misconduct is exacerbated by the fact that she violated sixteen different rules of professional conduct,
often numerous times and across the representation of multiple clients. Ms. Smith-Scott’s conduct in her personal bankruptcy case further compounds the problematic nature of this case. Ms. Smith-Scott willfully disregarded lawful orders of the Bankruptcy Court and U.S. District Court and was found in civil contempt by those courts.
One order of the Bankruptcy Court fittingly describes much of the vexatious, three year bankruptcy proceeding: allegations replete with “unsupported, irrational, [and] highly
tenuous speculation.” Or, another by the U.S. District Court, describing one of Ms. Smith Scott’s motions, devoid of factual predicate, as “rely[ing] upon the sheer audacity of her [own] allegations.” Surely, this misuse of the judicial system and misconduct of this sort is that which “casts our noble profession in a most unfavorable light.” Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Collins, ___ Md. ___, ___ (2020). It follows, then, that a reprimand or suspension would not be sufficient to protect the public or serve as a deterrent to other attorneys.
Judge Getty authored the 87-page opinion. (Mike Frisch)