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Baltimore attorney disbarred following omission on bar application

Maryland’s top court has disbarred a Baltimore attorney for failing to disclose on his bar application a trial court found he acted in bad faith during a civil case in a prior career as an investigative reporter.

The Court of Appeals found Gregory Allen Slate broke multiple rules of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct, including those related to bar admission, disciplinary matters and dishonesty, in 2015, a little more than a year after he became a lawyer.

“There is little doubt that, had Slate’s dishonesty come to light during the bar application process, we would have determined that he lacked the character and fitness necessary for admission to the Bar of Maryland,” Judge Shirley M. Watts wrote for Friday for a unanimous court.

Slate recorded video for a hidden-camera investigation in Chicago while working as a freelance investigative journalist in 2007. In September 2009, Slate sued ABC News, alleging the broadcaster had committed copyright infringement by using his footage without permission, according to the opinion.

A federal judge in Washington granted ABC’s motion for summary judgment and, in an alternative ruling, granted a motion to dismiss due to Slate’s “bad-faith litigation conduct.” That included a letter Slate submitted to the court that purported to show correspondence between him and an ABC News producer that turned out to be inaccurate and fabricated, the opinion states.

The federal court also found Slate’s testimony during a deposition “was likely perjurious, or at the very least, intentionally misleading.” Slate also tried to fraudulently collect evidence, provided discovery documents “in a soiled envelope that had the strong odor of excrement,” improperly taped his own deposition testimony and produced a large amount of irrelevant and misleading materials, according to the opinion. The decision was upheld on appeal.

Shifting the blame

In 2014, Slate, who could not be reached for comment Monday, sought advice from officials at the University of Baltimore School of Law, his alma mater, and the State Board of Law Examiners about disclosing his history with the ABC case. Slate said he was advised not to disclose that information, the opinion states.

But Slate still was responsible for disclosing that information, Baltimore City Circuit Judge Jeannie Jinkyung Hong wrote in November after hearing evidence in the case.

“Perhaps the individuals did, in fact, navigate (Slate) toward nondisclosure on his bar application; nevertheless, (Slate)’s attempt to shift the blame does not absolve him of his responsibility to prove his character to practice law, and to do so without knowingly omitting material facts,” Hong wrote.

Within a year after Slate was admitted to the bar, a Maryland lawyer found out about the trial court opinions in the ABC case and filed a complaint with bar counsel. In a response to bar counsel, Slate said he had “disclosed all required information during the bar application process,” according to the opinion.

The court found five aggravating factors leading to Slate’s disbarment. First, Hong found Slate had a “dishonest or selfish motive” because he concealed material information to get into the Maryland bar, the opinion states.

Second, Slate’s conduct showed a “pattern of dishonesty.” For example, he responded “No” to a catchall question on his bar application that asks for any negative information that was not requested or disclosed in previous responses, making a false statement under oath that all the facts in his bar application were true. Slate also concealed required information in his character interview, among other dishonest behavior during that process, the opinion states.

Slate also violated multiple rules in the code of conduct. The hearing judge found Slate refused to acknowledge his actions were wrong, according to the opinion. Finally, his actions also showed he was likely to engage in dishonest behavior in the future, according to the opinion.

Bar Counsel Lydia E. Lawless declined to comment on the court’s decision.

The case is Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Gregory Allen Slate, Misc. Docket AG No. 5, September Term, 2017.

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