Friday, July 23, 2021
The Maryland Court of Appeals quoted our 16th President in imposing lawyer discipline
The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the [person] of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never let your correspondence fall behind.
Abraham Lincoln, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.
Then a humble prairie lawyer, Abraham Lincoln shared this bit of wisdom to illustrate the habits every attorney and professional ought to practice. In his journal, President Lincoln stressed the importance of timeliness, of not taking client money until it has been earned, and of promoting honesty in the legal profession. Id. Today, Lincoln’s adages continue to bear a unique importance, as they are practices which are not only recommended, but are required of all attorneys under the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct.
Although we commend her considerable pro bono work, the Respondent in this case, Mitzi Elaine Dailey, neglected her client’s case for nearly a year and failed to maintain communication with him. The fee Ms. Dailey received from her client related to this matter was never placed into an attorney trust account, nor was it ever returned to her client despite her failure to earn it. Throughout Bar Counsel’s investigation, Ms. Dailey made several serious mistakes. Ms. Dailey failed to comply with Bar Counsel’s investigation. Ms. Dailey failed to provide requested documents or attend her scheduled deposition and circuit court hearing. Finally, to compound all of this, Ms. Dailey made false and misleading statements to Bar Counsel, including the fabrication of evidence to conceal her rule violations. Had Ms. Dailey been responsive, she may have avoided the most significant rule violations described below, and we may have reached a different conclusion. However, because of the serious misconduct outlined in the findings of the hearing judge, disbarment is the appropriate sanction for Ms. Dailey.
The circuit court conducted a Skype hearing
The hearing judge noted that there was a person present at the Skype hearing who was identified on the screen only as “Unidentified Caller.” The court asked several times if the person was, in fact, Ms. Dailey, and invited her to present mitigation if it was, but the court received no response. The only individuals the court shared the Skype link with were Bar Counsel, the hearing judge’s staff, and Ms. Dailey.
The underlying representation involved estate administration.
Respondent filed exceptions to 40 findings of fact.
Bar Counsel recommends that we disbar Ms. Dailey because of “her intentional misappropriation of client funds, abandonment of a client, and intentional misrepresentations to Bar Counsel.” On the other hand, Ms. Dailey argues that we should dismiss her case with no sanction as she excepts to all the hearing judge’s conclusions, and because her pro bono work and lack of prior discipline should militate against disbarment.
...Although Ms. Dailey has no prior discipline, as we have noted in the past, “[t]he presence of one mitigating factor cannot overcome the aggregation of [Ms. Dailey’s] many transgressions along with several aggravating factors.” Karambelas, 473 Md. at 177. Ms. Dailey’s misappropriation of client funds alone is enough to warrant disbarment. See id. (citing Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Sullivan, 369 Md. 650, 655–56 (2002)). Additionally, she has shown no willingness to take responsibility for her actions, failed to pay restitution to her client, and failed to cooperate with Bar Counsel. Ms. Dailey even went so far as to submit fabricated documents to Bar Counsel to conceal her rule violations.