Monday, June 8, 2020

Darkest Hour

The Maryland Court of Appeals has imposed a 60-day suspension of an attorney

“I don’t know that there are any short cuts to doing a good job.”
-Sandra Day O’Connor

As part of the legal profession, attorneys are expected and required to diligently and competently undertake representation of their client’s interests, often in that client’s darkest hour. In any contested legal proceeding, preparation is paramount. This attorney grievance proceeding arises from an attorney’s representation of a client in a divorce and contested custody proceeding, in which the attorney failed to undertake the most basic preparation of her client’s case, and failed to communicate with her client, opposing counsel, and the attorney representing the minor child at the center of the custody dispute, which negatively impacted her client’s case. This type of misconduct impairs the public’s confidence in the legal profession. We conclude that the appropriate sanction for [the attorney]’s violation of the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct, as described herein, is suspension for 60 days.

The attorney was admitted in 1991 and has no record of prior discipline

Although this proceeding involves only one client matter, given the aggravating factors, including Ms. Collins’s substantial experience, combined with her unwillingness to accept responsibility for her misconduct and the corresponding blame she heaped upon others, including her client, we believe that this case warrants a sanction similar to the sanction imposed in Walker-Turner. Unlike the respondent in Hill, here, there are no substantial mitigating factors, or an expression of remorse. Under the facts presented in
this case—Ms. Collins’s lack of diligence and preparation, including her lack of communication with her client, opposing counsel and counsel for the minor child, her lack of compliance with the discovery rules, her failure to prepare her client and her client’s witness for trial, combined with the presence of the aggravating factors noted above—a 60-day suspension is appropriate.

As a seasoned family law practitioner, Ms. Collins knew or should have known that her complete and utter lack of preparation adversely affected not only her client, but her client’s family at a time when they needed her help the most. This type of misconduct is unacceptable and casts our noble profession in a most unfavorable light. As attorneys, under our professional rules, representing a client in court requires more than simply showing up.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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