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Hirshman to step down as bar counsel for AGC

Longtime Bar Counsel Melvin Hirshman will retire from the Attorney Grievance Commission on June 30, commission chairwoman Linda Lamone announced. Hirshman, 78, has been bar counsel since 1981, just six years after the commission was created to investigate and prosecutes cases of attorney misconduct. “I can’t be thankful enough,” Hirshman said from his home in ...

5 comments

  1. Charles M. Shryock, III

    I really want to say Thanks for all the years of service that Mr. Hirshman gave to the State of Maryland. The Role of Bar Counsel is very tough and decisions on what action to take in response to complaints filed is exceptionally difficult. I know Mr. Hirshman made those decisions over the years based on all the information he had at the time and did the best he could with what was available at that time. I look forward to working with him, when I can, in the future for the betterment of the bar and attorney services to the public at large. Both attorneys and the public need to be educated and re-educated so as to better work with each other in arriving at reasonable solutions to the legal problems presented. Sometimes, you may think you are helping but in reality you are treading in dangerous waters and a better grasp of knowledge, education and the experiences of others can help in so many ways. The Practice of Law is everchanging and Mr. Hirshman has brought about positive changes in his own way and I believe he will continue to do so in the future. June 30, 2010 will not be the last we hear from Mr. Melvin Hirshman on these topics.

  2. I too salute Mr. Hirshman for his longstanding service. However, if Maryland wants to ensure the highest ethical standards for lawyers, it must make its bar opinions available at no charge to all Maryland lawyers. Right now, Maryland lawyers must join the Maryland State Bar Association in order to access ethics decisions — they are not even available from for-fee services like ABA/BNA database. Many of us who are members of the Maryland Bar do not join MSBA because we have national practices or belong to other bars where we are more active and thus, cannot justify the cost of MSBA. Yet, at the same time, we must abide by Maryland ethics rules and the lack of access to bar opinions makes compliance near impossible. In turning over the reigns of the Grievance Committee, Maryland should also use this opportunity to change its policies on limited access to ethics opinions that govern attorneys.

  3. “A WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL RUN”?

    To protect the public, Bar Counsel must confront very difficult and highly unpleasant tasks — taking steps which may cost attorneys their careers. These steps are, indeed, essential in ensuring that those who work in the law abide by it and discharge their duties in a manner that earns the trust of all clients.

    While Judge Battaglia may applaud Mr. Hirshman for prosecuting attorneys in cases where the law is unsettled, I believe that the role of Bar Counsel is too important to be viewed as that of an aggressive “prosecutor”. One need not develop the law in cases of first impression by seeking to destroy careers.

    Even if such draconian remedies were justified, they are hardly worth savoring in the manner that Mr. Hirshman has for nearly 30 years. One could understand the mentality of a person that would assume this role in a limited tour of duty designed to protect the public. But who would want to make an entire career out of taking away the careers of others, or describe the experience as “a wonderful, wonderful run”?

  4. I agree with “Anonymous” that to protect the public, Bar Counsel must confront very difficult and highly unpleasant tasks — taking steps which may cost attorneys their careers.
    There is no question that cases exist where if given a second look, the final outcome should and would be different. The mechanism for resolution of alleged actions that “need prosecuting,” needs to be re-visited and a more open and forthright “fleshing out” of details in a closed or open session should be established. Presenting ones position in the current system (mechanism) is a trial and with trials, they can be “short and sweet” or a long and very meticulously drawn out trial to insure that each and every material point will not be misinterpreted or misconstrued by the trier of fact or a final reviewer trying to determine a proper disposition. In the present system, every trial should and must be a grand (detailed, etc.) presentation, multiplicitous to be sure, in order to try and avoid gross misinterpretations. The “normal” rules of Appellate Review should be adhered to and if serious questions arise with respect to “factual determinations” then a re-hearing mechanism should be added and the issue not just be summarily dismissed. If a practitioner’s lifetime achievements can be destroyed, it would be better to allow additional review rather than an expeditious disposition while ignoring the additional information that could result in arriving at the truth (which is the goal). In that way, the trials could be shorter and the brevity not be used against the practitioner by him or her believing that such fact was developed sufficiently only to learn later that the Court of Appeals should have been provided with more details because the Court gave that fact more weight than anticipated and because it was not examined in more detail, the Court decided against the practitioner. Hindsight is said to be 20/20 but when a career, literally a life’s work, is at stake then this additional careful review should be allowed and perhaps be mandatory if requested by either side. Perhaps a “De Novo” Hearing could be permitted if there was a serious question as to the truth of an allegation that was clearly not developed during the trial. Judge Battaglia chaired the Professionalism Commission and held meetings across the State and much was learned from those meetings. A new approach to complaints on professionalism was proposed and it appears the State is headed in the right direction. Conditional Diversion Agreements could be used more as an alternative to outright suspension or disbarment when there are mitigating factors [i.e., former medical conditions which resulted in alleged improper conduct]. The practitioner could cover the expense of such a program designed to ensure that while continuing to serve the public and prior clients who have looked to the practitioner for advice and counsel are doing so in a law abiding way and with sufficient oversight to avoid actions or neglect that previously brought the practitioner to the attention of Bar Counsel. There is a tremendous cost to the former and current clients of a practitioner when he or she can no longer assist them, especially after what may be decades of a professional relationship – that cannot be replaced and should not have to be because of a one time mistake – which may be in one of those “first impression” cases that are so difficult because there is no prior determination of such conduct. We must remember that no advisory opinions are given to practitioners on what conduct may or may not be acceptable. Practitioners must live and die by the sword and they are on the “first impression” type case without any guidance and may learn that what the practitioner thought was helping a situation turns out to be the practitioner’s demise from the current practice of law. Yes, there is a reinstatement process but that should not be the excuse to give short shrift to resolution of a complaint to Bar Counsel. The State must continue to develop a broader approach to dealing with complaints against practitioners. During this transition of Power, the Attorney Grievance Commission would do well to examine its procedures and mechanisms for resolution of complaints against attorneys.

  5. Gestapo indeed. He also pursued the personal vendettas of various judges against lawyers the judges didn’t like for one reason or another. Good riddance.

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