Maryland’s top court last week unanimously disbarred two lawyers who missed filing deadlines, failed to respond to discovery requests, dipped into a trust account or sent an unreasonably high bill in retaliation against a client who had filed a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission.
The Court of Appeals, in a third 7-0 decision, indefinitely suspended an attorney who settled a case without his client’s consent and then did not tell him of the settlement.
The court spared Henry D. McGlade Jr., an Arnold solo practitioner, of the ultimate professional sanction due to his otherwise fine reputation, the absence of any actual fraud against a court and his “modicum” of remorse for what he had done.
The judges granted no such reprieve to Barry S. Brown or Constance Ann Camus.
Bar Counsel Glenn M. Grossman declined to comment on the court’s decisions.
The court said Brown, a Dundalk solo practitioner, had failed to act diligently on behalf of four separate clients.
One client, Linda Cartzendafner, lost her chance to pursue a medical malpractice/wrongful death action following her husband’s death because Brown failed to tell her the Health Claims Arbitration Office had dismissed her claim. By the time she retained new counsel to file suit, the statute of limitations had passed.
In a second case, Brown’s failure to respond to a discovery request resulted in a default judgment against his clients, Action Business Systems Inc. and its president, William Wallace.
The third case involved a medical malpractice claim Brown filed on behalf of Gustave Phoebus against Friends Medical Center and the University of Maryland Medical Systems that was dismissed because he took no steps to prosecute it.
In the fourth case, involving accident victim Raymond Sweitzer, Brown failed to respond to the defendant’s discovery request, resulting in an order of sanctions.
Brown told none of the latter three clients that their cases were lost, but rather urged them to “dismiss” their claims. Wallace discovered the truth when the U.S. District Court entered a judgment of more than $1 million against him and ABS.
“Given the gravity and pervasiveness of [Brown’s] misconduct, we must disbar Respondent to protect the public and the integrity of the legal system in this state,” Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. wrote for the court.
Brown represented himself before the high court. The telephone number listed for his Dundalk office has been disconnected.
Family lawyer faulted
Camus, an Edgewater solo practitioner, had agreed to represent Robin Martin in a child custody dispute but never entered a formal court appearance — even after a court order that she do so, according to the Court of Appeals. As a result, all mailings from the trial court and opposing counsel were sent to Martin, rather than Camus.
Camus also never completed or filed responses to discovery requests from opposing counsel, nor did she make any discovery requests. After Martin fired her, Camus did not turn over Martin’s file to her new attorney and eventually provided only a few documents, the high court said.
In a second case, Camus represented Donna Smith Eyles in her pending divorce action.
In August 2009, Eyles asked Camus what she should do about her joint bank account with her estranged husband.
Camus advised her to take the $11,900 out of the account and transfer it into a trust account Camus set up for her.
Camus subsequently withdrew money from that account for her legal fee — without telling Eyles. Camus disclosed the withdrawal only when Eyles asked if she could use the funds to pay for an expert witness.
After Eyles fired her in April 2010, Camus refused to provide Eyles’ new attorney with her file. Camus said Eyles had outstanding legal bills, but she had not billed Eyles, the high court stated.
The new attorney had to get copies of the pleadings in Eyles’ case from opposing counsel, the court added.
After Eyles filed a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission, Camus sent her a bill for $80,106.48. Eyles called the bill retaliatory; Camus said she had time sheets to back up the charge, but never submitted documentation to support it, the court said.
Camus also did not respond for more than 15 months to bar counsel’s letter asking about Eyles’ case.
The high court said Camus’ actions showed “a pattern of conduct marked by indifference toward and neglect of clients, disregard of a court order, cavalier treatment of trust funds and an unreasonable and retaliatory bill.”
Camus told the court she was overburdened by her caseload and a thyroid illness and her ethical lapses were unintentional.
“These considerations, however, are not compelling enough to overcome the seriousness of the misconduct, regardless of whether it was purposeful or simply irresponsible,” Judge Robert N. McDonald wrote for the court. “Whatever sympathy we may have for the situation of the sole practitioner, our primary concern in this context is protection of the public.”
Camus’ attorney, Greenbelt solo practitioner Melvin G. Bergman, did not respond to a telephone message left Friday afternoon.
McGlade’s case involved a $1,625 settlement he reached on behalf of Jerome G. Brewis, whom Anne Arundel County had cited for building code violations related to boathouses and piers on his Pasadena property.
McGlade, who paid the amount with a cashier’s check, represented to the court and opposing counsel that he had Brewis’ approval for the settlement, when he did not.
When Brewis learned of the settlement, he retained another attorney, who successfully moved to have it vacated and get the money back.
McGlade’s attorney, Camp Springs solo practitioner William Ray Ford, did not return a telephone message seeking comment Friday afternoon.
The Court of Appeals found McGlade violated Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct regarding competence, scope of representation, diligence, communication, candor toward the tribunal and misconduct. But the court rejected bar counsel’s request for McGlade’s disbarment after balancing his offenses against his 28-year legal career.
McGlade had not “committed a crime or perpetrated an actual fraud upon the court,” Judge Mary Ellen Barbera wrote for the court. “Moreover we do not overlook Respondent’s fine reputation as a lawyer, his otherwise unblemished disciplinary record and the ‘modicum’ of remorse” he displayed, Barbera added.
WHAT THE COURT HELD
Attorney Grievance Commission v. Barry Brown, CA Misc. Docket AG No. 1, Sept. Term 2011. Reported. Opinion by Harrell, J. Argued Feb. 6, 2012. Filed April 23, 2012.
Is disbarment appropriate for an attorney who failed to act with reasonable diligence and competence in four cases and misrepresented to clients the status of their cases?
Yes; disbarment is appropriate “given the gravity and pervasiveness” of the conduct.
Marianne J. Lee for petitioner; Barry S. Brown for respondent.
RecordFax # 12-0423-24 (30 pages).
WHAT THE COURT HELD
Attorney Grievance Commission v. Constance Ann Camus, CA Misc. Docket AG No. 15, Sept. Term 2011. Reported. Opinion by McDonald, J. Argued March 5, 2012. Filed April 23, 2012.
Is disbarment appropriate for an attorney who takes funds from a client trust account, fails to enter an appearance in a case despite a judicial order and submits an unreasonable bill in retaliation for a client’s complaint to bar counsel?
Yes; disbarment is appropriate due to “the seriousness of the misconduct.”
Marianne J. Lee for petitioner; Melvin G. Bergman for respondent.
RecordFax # 12-0423-21 (22 pages).
WHAT THE COURT HELD
Attorney Grievance Commission v. Henry D. McGlade Jr., CA Misc. Docket AG No. 6, Sept. Term 2010. Reported. Opinion by Barbera, J. Argued March 1, 2012. Filed April 24, 2012.
Is indefinite suspension appropriate for an attorney who entered into a settlement agreement without his client’s consent and then did not tell him of the settlement?
Yes; indefinite suspension is appropriate because the offense did not involve a crime or actual fraud against the court and the attorney has an otherwise fine reputation and showed remorse.
Glenn M. Grossman for petitioner; William Ray Ford for respondent.
RecordFax # 12-0424-23 (27 pages).