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Montgomery Co. solo practitioner disbarred for lying to client, other misconduct

The Court of Appeals disbarred a Montgomery County solo practitioner for failing to communicate with his client about his hourly rate, collecting unearned money, mismanaging an attorney trust account and lying to the court, bar counsel and his client, the state’s highest court said in an opinion filed today.

Disciplinary proceedings against Andrew Ndubisi Ucheomumu began after he failed to order transcripts that were needed for his client’s appeal to move forward. He also did not file a motion for an extension to file for the transcripts, which resulted in the dismissal of the appeal, the opinion states.

The court also found that Ucheomumu lied to the Court of Special Appeals to deflect blame, the opinion states.

The Court of Appeals found that Ucheomumu’s conduct violated more than a dozen Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct, namely rules related to competence, diligence, safekeeping property, candor toward tribunal, and dishonesty, among others, the opinion states.

“Ucheomumu failed to complete an extremely simple task — namely, ordering the transcripts — and then lied to Martin, Bar Counsel, and the Court of Special Appeals in an attempt to deflect the blame for his mistake,” wrote Judge Shirley M. Watts for the court.

In response to the court’s decision on Friday, Ucheomumu criticized the attorney disciplinary proceeding.

“The attorney disciplinary proceeding in Maryland is a sham proceeding, shrouded in secrecy and sham facts,” he said, accusing bar counsel of withholding documents.

During the disciplinary proceedings,  Ucheomumu’s motion to compel production of certain documents he felt were withheld by bar counsel was denied, as was a subsequent motion for reconsideration.

He also asked the Court of Appeals to dismiss the case or to remand the proceeding for the hearing judge to consider new evidence. Both of those exceptions were denied, the opinion states.

Client Shannan Martin retained Ucheomumu to represent her in an appeal, which required transcripts from the relevant trial court proceedings by a certain deadline. After the deadline passed, Ucheomumu asked Martin for $3,000 to cover the cost of the transcripts, which the client paid, the opinion states.

The Court of Special Appeals issued an order asking Martin to show why her appeal should be dismissed for failure to provide transcripts. In a motion for an extension, Ucheomumu falsely said there had been a delay in filing the transcripts because Martin’s former counsel did not provide them, the opinion states.

After Martin fired Ucheomumu, he did not refund $6,200 she paid him, money that he had not earned, the opinion states. The intermediate appellate court denied the motion for an extension and dismissed the appeal.

Ucheomumu falsely told his client that she was responsible for the dismissal. Martin filed a complaint with bar counsel against Ucheomumu, the opinion states.

Ucheomumu, who was admitted to the Maryland bar in 2009, said he intends to file for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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

The case is Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Andrew Ndubisi Ucheomumu, Misc. Docket AG No. 58, September Term, 2016.

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