Tuesday, January 11, 2022

An Unusual Reinstatement

The Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral argument yesterday in a matter involving the reinstatement of an attorney who had been suspended for 60 days in 2019.

When an attorney is suspended for 60 days in Maryland, return to practice is automatic if the attorney complies with the requirements of the suspension order.

Here, the attorney's compliance has apparently been put at issue by Bar Counsel and the 60 day suspension has now run over 800 days.

Notably, Bar Counsel had originally sought an indefinite suspension and, in fact, three judges dissented in favor of that sanction.

Essentially, the argument for Petitioner is that Bar Counsel was able to convert this short suspension into the indefinite one rejected by the court majority by fait accompli.

From the suspension decision that had invoked a basketball reference

In the end, there was no evidence of misappropriation or any indication that client funds were used other than for their intended purpose. The immigrant ultimately obtained unconditional permanent resident status, apparently using the strategy proposed by Mr. Singh. While no one may have suffered harm from Mr. Singh’s violations of the ethical rules, those rules are designed to ensure that attorneys are conscientious in their representation of clients and do not take advantage of them. Even in the absence of harm, we cannot ignore the foul. Given the context of Mr. Singh’s otherwise unblemished career and successful representation of this client, the appropriate sanction for these violations is suspension for 60 days.

The majority noted

We also note the important nature of Mr. Singh’s practice. He serves clients of moderate means, like Mr. A, in Montgomery County in a practice largely devoted to immigration law. No Maryland county has more immigrants or a higher percentage of foreign born residents; nearly one-third of Montgomery County’s residents were born abroad. As noted earlier, immigrants, who may find themselves without counsel even when the stakes are highest, are a vulnerable class of client often at the margins of society.

From the dissent

I would either adopt Bar Counsel’s recommendation of an indefinite suspension or impose an indefinite suspension with the right to apply for reinstatement after sixty days. In sharp contrast to Bar Counsel’s recommendation, the Majority merely suspends Singh for sixty days. See Maj. Slip Op. at 39. I fear that a two-month suspension will not impress upon Singh and other lawyers the importance of not making false statements to Bar Counsel. Indeed, Singh’s misconduct is even more egregious than that of lawyers who lie to Bar Counsel in correspondence, such as letters or e-mails. Singh gave false testimony at a deposition, then gave false testimony at the hearing in this attorney discipline proceeding. A sixty-day suspension is not sufficient to protect the public and send the message that repeatedly lying under oath is not acceptable behavior for a member of the Bar of Maryland.

Judges Greene and Hotten joined the dissent. (Mike Frisch)


Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


Post a comment