A Harford County lawyer was indefinitely suspended Friday for taking money from his client trust account as well as failing to pay a real estate settlement tax, maintain funds in his trust account and answer inquiries by bar counsel.
James Charles August Moeller violated numerous rules in the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct, the Court of Appeals said in its opinion.
Friday’s unsigned opinion came more than four years after June 9, 2008, when the top court heard the case. No reason was given for the delay.
In June 2006, Bank of America notified Moeller and the Attorney Grievance Commission that his client trust account was overdrawn by $271.54 after cashing a check payable to Baltimore County for $1,900.
The Attorney Grievance Commission sent Moeller three letters between July and September 2006 and called him twice about the overdraft. Moeller did not respond. He also did not respond when an investigator came to his home, knocked and left a business card.
In December 2006, the investigator returned with a subpoena for Moeller’s bank records. When Moeller answered the door, he told the investigator he had been sick from strokes and heart attacks and couldn’t respond because of his health problems.
He also told the investigator he no longer practiced law or paid his annual bar fees and had no clients.
“Assuming [Moeller] had health issues, for at least a portion of the relevant time period, [Moeller] knew about petitioner’s letters, could have responded, but nevertheless failed to do so,” the court wrote in a per curiam opinion.
According to Moeller’s bank records, he withdrew a total of $650 from his client trust account five times and paid an AOL service charge of $167.47 through the account.
The Attorney Grievance Commission filed a petition for disciplinary action against Moeller Nov. 5, 2007. Harford County Circuit Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. heard the case and submitted his findings to the Court of Appeals.
The court served Moeller a petition and summons, but he failed to respond. Moeller also did not show up to the March 2008 hearing before Plitt, who found several violations of the MRPC.
The Court of Appeals agreed. Friday’s opinion said Moeller failed to collect enough money to pay the recordation tax for a real estate settlement, failed to maintain funds in his trust account, did not keep client funds separate from his own and did not respond to letters from the commission.
The court decided against disbarment, but indefinitely suspended Moeller.
“Respondent’s failure to collect and maintain sufficient monies in his trust account to pay the recordation tax associated with a property settlement demonstrated a lack of thoroughness in his representation with respect to that matter,” the court wrote.
Moeller’s case was one of four disciplinary matters decided by the Court of Appeals so far in June. In the other three actions:
* Donya Tarraine Zimmerman was disbarred on June 12, one day after the court heard the Attorney Grievance Commission’s petition for sanctions against her. The court made the disbarment effective immediately and promised an opinion at a later date.
* Erwin R.E. Jansen Jr. was disbarred on June 20 by joint petition.
* Phillip Hamilton Christian Dorsey was disbarred by the Court of Appeals June 7, also by joint petition.