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Attorney disbarred for misappropriating funds, not attending hearing

Attorney Samuel Edward Hensley was disbarred Friday by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which found that he had misappropriated funds owed to a client’s medical providers, and that he failed to communicate or provide services to another client by not showing up for meetings and hearings.

In her opinion, Senior Judge Irma S. Raker, sitting by special assignment, wrote that Hensley violated eight rules of professional conduct for lawyers, including rules dealing with competence, dishonesty, safekeeping property and communication.

“Respondent’s failures to safekeep funds and acts of dishonesty and misrepresentation each independently warrant disbarment absent compelling mitigating circumstances,” Raker wrote.

Hensley was admitted to the Maryland bar in 2014 and maintained law offices in Prince George’s County and Baltimore city, according to the opinion.

The discipline stems from July 2016, when Hensley represented Yemane Behere in a case related to a vehicle accident in which Behere was injured. Because Behere received treatment from several health care providers, Behere and Hensley signed an agreement that more than $73,000 of the $200,000 settlement payout would go to the health care groups.

Although Hensley paid the $70,000 owed to Behere, he never gave the medical providers their share of the money, according to Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Cathy H. Serrette, who served as the trial judge and is quoted in the opinion.

Hensley also misrepresented his ability to practice law in Oklahoma, where the accident took place, Serrette found.

In a separate incident, Hensley represented John Mbawe, who was accused of assault and had a peace order filed against him in district court in March 2017.

 

After Mbawe paid Hensley $1,000 of the $2,500 retainer fee they had agreed on, Hensley failed to put the money into an attorney trust account, Serrette found.

In addition, Hensley failed to show up for a scheduled meeting with Mbawe later in March and did not show up for the peace order hearing the following day, Serrette said in the opinion. Mbawe appeared pro se at his hearing and the order against him was granted. Hensley did not explain his whereabouts to Mbawe after the hearing, Serrette said. 

Hensley never responded to Mbawe’s phone calls and text messages requesting a refund, the judge found.

On Nov. 7, 2017, Rich Resigno, on behalf of Omni Healthcare — which was owed money in the Behere case — was the first to file a complaint against Hensley with the office of Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless. In December 2017 and May 2018, respectively, Behere and Mbawe also filed their own complaints. 

Despite multiple attempts by Lawless’ office to contact Hensley, he never responded, the judge said.

Lawless declined to comment on the disbarment. Attempts to reach Hensley for comment were unsuccessful.

Serrette wrote that Hensley violated professional conduct rules dealing with safekeeping property by failing to put Mbawe’s $1,000 toward a retainer fee into an attorney trust account and failed to pay settlement funds to health care providers in Behere’s case.

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