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Potomac attorney disbarred for failing to represent client

Potomac attorney Kenneth Steven Kaufman was disbarred Friday by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which found he violated multiple rules of professional conduct by failing to communicate with a client.

The violations included failing to inform his client of a motion for summary judgment filed against her by the defendants, not appearing at hearings and, later, failing to participate in the attorney grievance proceedings.

“Respondent has demonstrated a continuing disrespect for the attorney grievance process and his client,” Court of Appeals Judge Michele D. Hotten wrote in her opinion.

Kaufman, who was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1985, could not be reached for comment Friday.

In September 2015, Arasteh Hekmat retained Kaufman to represent her in a claim against several parties relating to a dispute over a real estate commission. Hekmat agreed to pay Kaufman a flat fee of $2,500, plus a third of any funds from a judgment or settlement.

The defendants filed two motions for summary judgment against Hekmat in January 2017, but Kaufman did not relay that information to Hekmat, or the fact that two court dates were set for Feb. 28 and May 3, 2017, according to findings from Montgomery County Circuit Judge Jill R. Cummins, which Hotten cited in her opinion.

Cummins wrote that Kaufman did not file a response or opposition to the motions for summary judgment, and that he failed to appear at the February hearing on the motions. Since Kaufman filed no opposition, Hekmat’s case was dismissed with prejudice at the hearing, which Kaufman did not attend, the findings said.

Cummins added that Kaufman also did not notify Hekmat that the court had granted the defendants’ motion for attorneys’ fees and said that Kaufman did not inform the court why he did not attend the hearing.

In March 2017, the defendants filed a motion requesting the payment of costs for defending an unjustified proceeding, a development Kaufman did not relay to Hekmat, Cummins wrote.

Between February and May 2017, Hekmat made several attempts to call and text Kaufman, but he did not respond, the findings say. In May 2017, Hekmat visited the courthouse to review her case and learned for the first time that it had been dismissed.

In August 2017, Hekmat filed a complaint with the Maryland bar counsel, alleging that Kaufman was unresponsive and failed to thoroughly pursue her case, resulting in additional costs for her.

Since then, Kaufman has never responded to the bar counsel’s requests for comment, according to Cummins’ findings in the disbarment opinion.

Lydia Lawless, bar counsel for the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, declined to comment Friday on Kaufman’s disbarment.

Among the violations of Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct, Kaufman did not provide competent representation when he failed to file a response or opposition to the motions for summary judgment against his client, Hotten wrote.

The court also found that Kaufman violated professional rules associated with attorneys’ fees. Hotten wrote that the initial $2,500 fee was not unreasonable, but that Kaufman violated rules by collecting the money even though he did not work to further Hekmat’s claim.

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