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Top court disbars 3 lawyers in separate cases

The Court of Appeals has disbarred three attorneys in separate grievance cases, two of them dating back to the court’s 2009 term.

The disbarred attorneys are: Saladin E. Shakir, of Bowie; Heung S. Park, of Catonsville; and Ranji M. Garrett, of Rockville. None of the attorneys responded to the complaints against them, or showed up to defend themselves before the state’s highest court.

The court did not explain the reason for the lag in issuing the sanctions, which it issued as unsigned “per curiam” opinions. Glenn M. Grossman, bar counsel to the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, declined to comment when reached by phone on Tuesday.

In the first disbarment, Shakir repeatedly neglected his client by failing to file pleadings and papers and to appear at hearings, withheld unearned fees his client paid him, and had already been indefinitely suspended for similar conduct. According to court filings, in February 2007 he was paid $2,500 by a client to file an application for asylum under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act. Shakir did not file the application.

The same client also hired Shakir in October 2007 to represent him in a DWI case. Shakir failed to appear for hearings and the court was unable to reach him because he had changed his phone number.

While the commission was investigating Shakir in that case, it received five more complaints against him dating to 2000. For those five complaints, all dealing with similar issues, he consented to an indefinite suspension on Aug. 8, 2008.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Paul G. Goetzke, the hearing judge, who recommended that given Shakir’s track record and the evidence of violations, disbarment was appropriate.

“The severity and pattern of Shakir’s violations, coupled with his indefinite suspension for similar misconduct, warrants disbarment for the protection of the public,” the opinion said.

The opinion in Shakir’s case, Misc. Docket AG No. 8 of the September 2009 term, is available on the court’s website or as RecordFax #12-0625-24 (12 pages).

Application denied

Catonsville lawyer Heung Sik Park was disbarred for failing to communicate with clients, as well as failing to heed their requests for information and for not returning the unearned portion of his fees.

Park was hired in May 2007 by a couple who paid him $1,565 for immigration-related services. After receiving several notices from immigration authorities, the wife filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out her status. According to the complaint, her application had been denied because necessary information had not been filed.

The appellate court judges agreed with Baltimore County Judge John Hennegan, the hearing judge, who recommended disbarment.

The opinion in Park’s case, Misc. Docket AG No. 15, September 2009 Term, is also available from the court or as RecordFax #12-0625-23 (18 pages).

Left without notice

In the third disbarment case, Ranji M. Garrett left nine clients in the lurch when he abandoned his practice without notifying them. He also converted client funds to his own use, failed to return unearned fees to them and failed to take any meaningful steps in pursuit of their interests.

Garrett’s complaints stemmed from nine separate matters with nine separate clients. All dealt with family law issues such as divorce or custody. According to the complaint, Garrett accepted fees upfront and did little afterwards to move the cases forward.

In one case, he was paid $800 in 2007 for a divorce but never served his client’s spouse. The client’s case was dismissed for want of prosecution. In another, a soldier on active duty in Iraq hired Garrett to represent him in a divorce. Garrett took the $2,500 fee but did not appear at a hearing.

The appellate judges agreed with Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Algeo, the hearing judge, that disbarment was the most fitting sanction.

“Anything less than disbarment in this case would be a gross disservice to the public,” the Garrett opinion says.

Garrett’s case was Misc. Docket AG No. 13, September 2010 Term. It is available from the court or as RecordFax #12-0625-22 (22 pages).