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Lawyer gets second sanction in 3 months

A Prince George’s County lawyer has been indefinitely suspended for the second time in three months.

Anthony Maurice Harmon was sanctioned Monday by the Court of Appeals for failing to communicate with clients and charging unreasonable fees.

Harmon had been indefinitely suspended in August, with the right to reapply after six months, for failing to maintain records for his trust account and comingling personal and client funds.

Harmon returned to the Court of Appeals in September for oral argument in this case, and suggested the court suspend him for a definite period of time to run concurrently with the August suspension.

The court rejected that request on Monday.

Bar Counsel Glenn M. Grossman declined to comment. Harmon, who was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1999, did not respond to a request for comment.

The allegations against Harmon in this case stem from his representation of three clients.

“In each of the three cases, he failed to perform even the most rudimentary tasks,” Judge Robert N. McDonald wrote for the unanimous Court of Appeals.

Harmon represented Alexis Christian in an uncontested divorce in August 2008; however, he failed to promptly serve her husband with the complaint. He also did not respond to Christian’s requests for information about the case.

Harmon also charged Christian an excessive fee. They had agreed to a $2,500 retainer, but Harmon did not provide Christian with information about how the fee was calculated or keep her informed as the fees accrued.

Steven Lawrence retained Harmon in a divorce and child custody case in July 2007 and signed an agreement to pay a $2,500 retainer and $200 per hour.

Harmon, however, did not provide Lawrence with records showing how the retainer fee was used, failed to inform him about the case and failed to answer Lawrence’s request for information about the fee.

In the third case, Harmon represented Timothy and Natalie Proctor in August 2009 in an employment case in U.S. District Court in Maryland, even though he was not admitted to practice in the federal court. Harmon also falsely told the Proctors he had experience in employment law.

Harmon did not respond to the Proctors’ request for information about the case, including the time and location of a mediation session.

Harmon failed to promptly respond to Bar Counsel’s request for responses to all three clients’ complaints, did not provide financial records and failed to produce his own medical records for the commission’s expert psychiatrist.

Harmon contended he did not produce financial records because he thought Bar Counsel had already received them by subpoenaing his bank.

An evidentiary hearing was held in Prince George’s County Circuit Court in October 2012, where Judge Toni E. Clarke found that Harmon failed to represent the three clients with reasonable diligence and promptness.

 

Depression, death, divorce

Harmon told the court he had been going through emotional issues, which contributed to these situations. He said he suffered from depression and had problems in his personal life, including a divorce, the death of his grandfather, the foreclosure on his home and his son’s arrest. The commission’s expert psychiatrist, however, testified that there was no evidence to indicate Harmon suffered from a mental disorder.

The hearing judge held that the violations were not a cause of a mental health problem and the Court of Appeals agreed.

The court also agreed with Bar Counsel’s recommendation that Harmon be indefinitely suspended.

“Mr. Harmon does not appear to appreciate the wrongful nature, or the seriousness, of his misconduct,” McDonald wrote for the court. “He denies that his representation fell below acceptable standards of care, downplays the seriousness of his failure to keep his clients informed about the accrual of fees as mere ‘administrative mistakes,’ and contends that the three clients filed the complaints because they ‘didn’t like their final bill’.”

 

WHAT THE COURT HELD

Case:

Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Anthony Maurice Harmon, Misc. AG No. 83, September Term 2011. Argued Sept. 9, 2013. Decided Oct. 21, 2013. Opinion by McDonald, J.

Issue:

What is the appropriate sanction for an attorney who has been indefinitely suspended for another matter this year, who failed to communicate with clients and charged clients excessive and unreasonable fees?

Holding:

The Court of Appeals held the appropriate sanction is indefinite suspension.

Counsel:

Dolores O. Ridgell, Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland, for petitioner; Anthony Maurice Harmon, for himself.

RecordFax 13-1021-22 (19 pages).