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Baltimore attorney Ravenell can practice despite criminal charges

Though he is charged with racketeering, drug and money laundering conspiracies, well-known Baltimore attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell can still operate his law firm, at least for the time being.

Ravenell, 60, a defense attorney, had his first court appearance Tuesday, at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan ordered Ravenell to surrender his passport and restricted him from traveling beyond Maryland and Washington, D.C., without permission. Ravenell faces from 20 years to life in prison as maximum sentences based on the criminal charges. He has not been arrested or jailed.

Criminal charges have no effect on an attorney’s ability to operate as a lawyer, said Robert Rubinson, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law who specializes in legal ethics.

“Unless ultimately the Court of Appeals takes action and (Ravenell) gives up his bar license, clients can choose to retain him,” Rubinson said. “There’s nothing saying clients have to terminate a relationship with him. He’s still barred until he’s not.”

Lucius T. Outlaw III, a federal public defender who is representing Ravenell, said Wednesday that his client was still a licensed attorney and has not had any restrictions placed on his practice.

Ravenell, of Ravenell Law in Baltimore, was a partner at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy in Baltimore during the years referenced in the indictment, 2009 to 2014.

The Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission acts independently of the courts handling Ravenell’s criminal case and can choose whether to investigate the charges against him and punish him with a temporary or permanent disbarment, Rubinson said.

Lydia Lawless, Maryland bar counsel and head of the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, declined to comment on whether the commission would investigate Ravenell.

While Ravenell’s clients can continue to work with him, Rubinson said the serious charges against Ravenell could affect his reputation.

“I assume some clients of an attorney under indictment might want to switch,” Rubinson said.

Rubinson said that if Ravenell is ultimately cleared of the charges he could move forward with his career, though he added that there is “no doubt people will question his integrity in light of the indictments.”

However, a Maryland attorney who has handled several attorney grievance cases, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that while public charges “obviously” affect a lawyer’s reputation, Ravenell’s professional history of challenging the government could mitigate the effects of the indictment on his ability to attract and retain clients.

“Whenever a lawyer faces public charges, it obviously impacts their reputation and their practice,” the attorney said in an email. “Mr. Ravenell comes into this with a strong reputation. His clients are typically fighting the government just like he is now, so (the indictment) might be less of a factor than (it would be for) someone with a very different type of client base.”

A representative from Ravenell Law declined to comment Tuesday on whether clients were still using the attorney’s services or were switching law firms.

Despite the charges, Outlaw said Ravenell’s reputation remains strong.

“All I’ll say is he’s still held in high esteem by many of the criminal defense bar in Maryland,” Outlaw said. “We’ve received tremendous words of support for Ken.”

According to the Maryland Code and Court Rules website, attorneys are subject to discipline when they “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the attorney’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as an attorney in other respects” and when they “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” among other reasons.

Another section on the website states that attorneys charged with a “serious” crime must notify the Maryland bar counsel when the charge is filed and when a verdict is reached.

The same section for “discipline on conviction of a crime” states that bar counsel may file a petition for “disciplinary or remedial action” when they are informed of a guilty verdict.

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