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Attorney suspended for disruptive conduct

Maryland’s top court has issued a 30-day suspension for a Frederick lawyer who failed to heed instructions to be quiet in a courtroom, raised his voice as he was escorted out and then, in full public view, was arrested after trying to re-enter.

Daniel Q. Mahone’s behavior violated the Maryland lawyers’ rule of professional conduct prohibiting “conduct that is detrimental to the administration of justice,” the Court of Appeals stated in ordering the solo practitioner’s suspension. In its decision, the court noted it had reprimanded Mahone in 2007 for similar disruptive behavior.

The more recent incident occurred Feb. 1, 2010, in Prince George’s County Circuit Court in a case in which Mahone’s client, a mother who had lost custody of her child, was not even a party.

The matter involved a dispute between the child’s father and a grandmother, who was accusing the man of having abused the youngster. The grandmother was seeking a final protective order.

Mahone went to the courthouse in Upper Marlboro to witness the proceedings, spoke briefly to presiding Judge Michael R. Pearson, and took a seat in the spectator’s section.

Once seated, Mahone tried speaking with the father while court was in session and ignored several requests from bailiffs and sheriff’s deputies to lower his voice and remain seated. They then removed Mahone from the courtroom.

Once outside, Mahone became increasingly loud and upset and tried to re-enter the courtroom, but was prevented by a deputy, who subsequently tried to place him under arrest. Mahone pulled away from the officer, who subdued and arrested him, according to the court’s opinion.

Mahone was prosecuted for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest but Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge James Lombardi granted Mahone’s motion for judgment of acquittal after the prosecution rested in the fall of 2010.

Though he eluded criminal prosecution, Mahone could not escape professional sanction.

Pearson lodged a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission regarding Mahone’s behavior in the courthouse.

The Court of Appeals referred the disciplinary proceeding to Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Quirk to hear testimony, consider evidence and issue findings of fact. Quirk found Mahone had willfully engaged in offensive behavior “in the actual presence of members of the public, both inside and outside the courtroom.”

Quirk also found Mahone’s misbehavior did not have a “dishonest” or “selfish” motive.

“He acted, in his estimation, as a zealous advocate for his client in hastening to Upper Marlboro to an unknown proceeding … to hopefully obtain custody of a 2-year-old child for his client, who had previously lost custody,” Quirk wrote. “Upon hearing of Judge Pearson’s letter to the Attorney Grievance Commission, Respondent [Mahone] promptly apologized. Judge Pearson accepted.”

Bar Counsel Glenn M. Grossman, the commission’s chief prosecutor, sought a 90-day suspension for Mahone, who countered that his misbehavior warranted only a reprimand.

The high court settled on a 30-day suspension for Mahone’s second offense. In the earlier case, the court reprimanded Mahone for repeatedly interrupting Washington County Circuit Court Judge Donald E. Beachley and then preparing to leave the courtroom as the judge was issuing a bench opinion in the case on Sept. 2, 2005.

“The Respondent’s conduct, as found by Judge Quirk, is not to be condoned,” retired Chief Judge Robert M. Bell wrote for the high court. “That he has once before been reprimanded for in-court or court-related improper conduct disqualifies him from that sanction” in this case.

The court said the 30-day suspension will take effect 30 days after Sept. 30, the date the opinion was issued.

Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. joined in the court’s judgment, but not in Bell’s opinion.

Mahone, through an assistant, declined to comment on the high court’s decision Wednesday. Grossman also declined to comment.

WHAT THE COURT HELD

Case:

Attorney Grievance Commission v. Daniel Q. Mahone, CA Misc. AG No. 35, Sept. Term 2011. Reported. Opinion by Bell, C.J. (Retired). Argued Sept. 6, 2012. Filed Sept. 30, 2013.

Issue:

Is a 30-day suspension an appropriate sanction for an attorney who disturbed courthouse proceedings for a second time?

Holding:

Yes; disrupting proceedings cannot be condoned and now warrant a suspension following an earlier reprimand.

Counsel:

Lydia E. Lawless and James P. Botluk for petitioner; Barry J.C. Kissin and Daniel Q. Mahone for respondent.

RecordFax # 13-0930-20 (31 pages).