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Law Digest — Maryland Court of Appeals — July 2, 2020

Maryland Court of Appeals

Criminal Procedure; Bifurcation of trials: In the defendant’s criminal trial, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion to bifurcate the charge of possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person from the remaining charges, resulting in a hybrid judge/jury trial wherein the trial court would determine the defendant’s guilt as to the firearm charges, because a trial court does not have discretion to bifurcate the charge of possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person from the remaining counts of the indictment. Hemming v. State, No. 48, Sept. Term, 2019.

Professional Responsibility; Disbarment: Disbarment was the appropriate sanction for attorney who violated numerous Rules of Professional Conduct when, among other things, she facilitated an attorney-client relationship between her client’s alleged victim, a 16-year-old minor, and another attorney, and then misled the circuit court in an effort to conceal that relationship and conceal her efforts to dissuade the victim from cooperating with the prosecution. Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Gwyn Cara Hoerauf, Miscellaneous Docket AG No. 7, Sept. Term, 2019.

Criminal Procedure

Bifurcation of trials

BOTTOM LINE: In the defendant’s criminal trial, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion to bifurcate the charge of possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person from the remaining charges, resulting in a hybrid judge/jury trial wherein the trial court would determine the defendant’s guilt as to the firearm charges, because a trial court does not have discretion to bifurcate the charge of possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person from the remaining counts of the indictment.

CASE: Hemming v. State, No. 48, Sept. Term, 2019 (filed June 26, 2020) (Judges McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, Booth, Biran & GREENE (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned)).

FACTS: In 2016, investigators from the Montgomery County Police Department’s Special Investigations Division (“SID”) sought to speak with Jonathan Hemming concerning an ongoing investigation. At the time, Hemming had an open warrant stemming from his failure to appear before the District Court of Maryland for a drug possession offense. On May 18, 2016, based on the open warrant, several SID officers began surveilling Hemming at his home in Gaithersburg by setting up a perimeter around the residence.

The SID officers observed Hemming exit his home with a female companion, who was later identified as his wife. When the pair entered a gray Honda Civic and left the residence, the SID officers followed Hemming to a commercial property on Comprint Court in Montgomery County. Hemming parked the vehicle “face-in” in front of an office building. He and his wife exited the vehicle and entered the building and remained inside for approximately a half an hour to forty minutes before returning to the vehicle.

When Hemming and his wife returned to the vehicle, the SID officers attempted to perform a “soft arrest.” However, when Hemming attempted to flee, a struggle ensued as SID officers attempted to gain control of Hemming. During the fracas, Detective Don Oaks noted that Hemming retrieved a “black cylindrical object” from inside the vehicle. The object Hemming was holding was actually an improvised firearm colloquially referred to as a “zip gun.” Ultimately, SID officers used a taser gun to subdue and arrest Hemming.

Subsequently, Hemming was charged by indictment with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence, possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony drug crime, possession of ammunition by a person who is prohibited from possessing a regulated firearm, two counts of possession of a regulated firearm after having been convicted of a crime of violence, and resisting arrest. In February 2018, the circuit court held a trial in the matter. At the start of trial, Hemming moved to bifurcate counts nine through 12, the possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person and ammunition counts, from the remaining counts. He suggested that the trial judge determine his guilt as to the possession of regulated firearm by a prohibited person and that the other counts be decided by a jury in a singular hybrid judge/jury trial. The trial court denied Hemming’s motion to bifurcate.

The jury found Hemming guilty of attempted first-degree murder of Detective Oaks, first-degree assault on Sergeant Charles Bullock, two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a crime, possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person, possession of ammunition by a person who is prohibited from possessing a regulated firearm, and resisting arrest. The court sentenced Hemming to life in prison, plus an additional 40 years’ imprisonment. Hemming appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which affirmed the circuit court judgment, vacated the sentence on count seven and remanded that count for re-sentencing based on an issue irrelevant to the instant appeal. The intermediate appellate court did not determine, however, whether a trial judge in a criminal case has authority to apply the hybrid judge/jury trial procedure because it concluded that the trial judge properly exercised his discretion in denying Hemming’s motion to bifurcate.

Hemming appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.

LAW: This case presented a unique procedural occurrence, previously examined in Galloway v. State, where a trial judge bifurcates the possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person charges from the remaining charges and determines a defendant’s guilt as to the firearm charges. Galloway v. State, 371 Md. 379 (2002). This scenario results in a hybrid judge/jury trial in which the judge determines the defendant’s guilt with respect to the charge of possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person and the jury determines guilt as to the remaining charges (the “bifurcated hybrid trial procedure”). Hemming argued that the trial judge had discretion under Maryland Rule 4-253(c) to bifurcate separate counts between the judge and jury in a single trial.

Generally, to convict a defendant of possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person, the State must prove that a defendant was previously convicted of a disqualifying crime as an element of the offense. See Carter v. State, 374 Md. 693, 709 (2003). The defendant is not entitled to a severance of the possession of a regulated firearm by one previously convicted of a crime of violence charge from the remaining charges because the bases of the crimes are one and the same. Id. However, the potential prejudice a defendant may experience from the introduction of evidence concerning a prior conviction must be balanced with the “standard rule that the prosecution is entitled to prove its case by evidence of its own choice.” Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172, 186 (1997).

Maryland Rule 4-253(c) empowers a trial court with the discretionary authority to remedy prejudice arising from certain types of joinder. The Rule, in pertinent part, provides that if it appears that any party will be prejudiced by the joinder for trial of counts, charging documents, or defendants, the court may, on its own initiative or on motion of any party, order separate trials of counts, charging documents, or defendants, or grant any other relief as justice requires. Md. Rule 4-253(c). Although a trial judge may “order separate trials of counts,” the Rule does not specifically contemplate the bifurcation of counts between two separate finders of fact within a singular trial – the principal concern here. Hemming contended that the language of Rule 4-253(c), empowering a court to “grant any other relief as justice requires” encompassed the bifurcation of counts in a hybrid court/jury trial.

Rule 4-253(c) is patterned after Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure (“FRCP”) and both standards are merely a restatement of the test applied at common law. McKnight v. State, 280 Md. 604, 608 (1977). No federal precedent authorizes the bifurcated hybrid trial procedure. While several decisions involved situations where possession of a firearm by a convicted felon counts were bifurcated from other counts, all counts were considered by the same jury. See, e.g., United States v. Lee, 549 F.3d 84, 88, 94–95 (2d Cir. 2008). In contrast, several courts have considered the bifurcation of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon counts from other counts but have not discussed whether the counts would all be heard by the same factfinder. See, e.g., United States v. McCode, 317 Fed. Appx. 207, 212 (3d Cir. 2009). Several federal appellate circuits have also held that a defendant is not entitled to have the elements of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charges bifurcated. United States v. Belk, 346 F.3d 305, 308 (2d Cir. 2003).

In Carter v. State, 374 Md. 693, 710 (2003), the Court of Appeals addressed the authority of a trial judge to bifurcate elements of a criminal charge to prevent the jury from considering a particular element of that charge. The Carter Court acknowledged various authorities that determined that “bifurcation of a trial by dividing it along the lines of the elements of the crime charged” would lead to serious problems. Id. at 710-12. The Carter Court emphasized that the one factor that militates against bifurcation of the elements when trying a defendant on criminal-in-possession charges is ensuring that the jury understands the criminality of the alleged conduct. Id. at 714. Thus, the Carter Court clearly would not have supported a criminal trial procedure that permitted the elimination of an element of a charge from the jury’s consideration.

Under Rule 4-253(c) a defendant, for example, must demonstrate that he or she was or will be unduly prejudiced by the joinder of counts to permit the severance of counts or any remedy under the Rule’s authorization to grant “any other relief as justice requires.” See McKnight, 280 Md. at 607–08. In Carter, the trial judge permitted the State to introduce evidence that Carter previously had been convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon. Carter, 374 Md. at 721. The admission of this evidence unduly prejudiced Carter by possibly luring the jury “into a sequence of bad character reasoning.” Id.

Consequently, the trial judge’s refusal to strike the unnecessary language that characterized the prior conviction by its statutory categories of crimes under the relevant statutes, created a high potential for unfair prejudice to Carter and warranted reversal of his convictions. Id. at 720–22. For this reason, the Court announced a rule of exclusion of unnecessary evidence to limit undue prejudice to the defendant. Id. at 722. Any defendant charged with the possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person is legally entitled to a stipulation that informs the jury that he or she is simply prohibited from possessing a regulated firearm, and disclosing no further detail regarding any prior convictions, if the defendant requests it. See id. at 772.

Here, Hemming entered a stipulation that he “was previously convicted of a crime that disqualifies him from possessing a regulated firearm.” Under Carter, the stipulation that Hemming entered into aided in limiting the potential prejudice he would have faced from the introduction of evidence concerning his prior disqualifying convictions. A Carter stipulation is the procedurally simpler method to address the potential prejudice inherent in cases involving charges of possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person and is preferable to bifurcation in terms of judicial economy. See Carter, 374 Md. at 722.

Under Rule 4-253(c), a trial court does not have discretion under Maryland Rule 4-253(c) to bifurcate the possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person count from the remaining charges—with the counts being decided by different factfinders within a singular proceeding. Rule 4-253(c) does not expressly authorize the hybrid bifurcated trial procedure, and no Maryland or federal court has adopted the procedure. Moreover, permitting the hybrid judge/jury trial would create a host of potential procedural problems. Therefore, a trial court does not maintain the discretion, under Rule 4-253(c), to bifurcate possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person counts from other charges – with the former being decided by the judge and the latter by a jury.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals was affirmed.

COMMENTARY: Hemming’s second question presented on appeal was whether the trial judge abused its discretion in denying his motion to bifurcate. Given that a trial judge does not maintain the discretion under Rule 4-253(c) to bifurcate possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person counts from other charges in a hybrid trial procedure, the trial court correctly determined that it did not have the authority for such a bifurcation. The trial judge’s ruling on the motion was reasonable. As such, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Hemming’s motion.

Professional Responsibility

Disbarment

BOTTOM LINE: Disbarment was the appropriate sanction for attorney who violated numerous Rules of Professional Conduct when, among other things, she facilitated an attorney-client relationship between her client’s alleged victim, a 16-year-old minor, and another attorney, and then misled the circuit court in an effort to conceal that relationship and conceal her efforts to dissuade the victim from cooperating with the prosecution.

CASE: Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Gwyn Cara Hoerauf, Miscellaneous Docket AG No. 7, Sept. Term, 2019 (filed June 26, 2020) (Judges Barbera, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, Booth & BIRAN).

FACTS: Gwyn Cara Hoerauf (Respondent) was admitted to the Maryland Bar on December 12, 2000 and maintained a law practice in Montgomery County. In December 2015, Peggy Lyles retained Respondent to represent her son, Stacy Simmons, in two criminal cases pending in the District Court for Montgomery County. Respondent agreed to represent Mr. Simmons for a flat fee of $1,000, and required a $300 initial payment before she would enter her appearance or visit Mr. Simmons in jail. Ms. Lyles made the initial $300 payment on December 17, 2015, and provided Respondent with a post-dated check for January 1, 2016 for the remaining $700. Respondent represented Mr. Simmons in these two cases without issue, and they were resolved through a plea agreement.

On January 4, 2016, Ms. Lyles asked Respondent what the fee would be to represent Mr. Simmons in a third criminal case, for which a hearing had been scheduled for January 12, 2016. Respondent advised Ms. Lyles that she would appear at the hearing for $250, but that the fee needed to be paid in advance. Ms. Lyles agreed to this arrangement. Respondent visited Mr. Simmons in jail on January 11, 2016. Mr. Simmons confirmed that he wanted to retain Respondent as counsel for this third case. At 10:30 p.m. on January 11th, Respondent sent a text message to Ms. Lyles stating that her fee would be $250 if she got the case dismissed or entered into a plea. If, however, she had to return to try the case, Respondent advised, there would be an additional charge of $250.

Ms. Lyles responded to Respondent’s text at 6:15 a.m. the next day, January 12, and stated, “Gwyn, we have appointments this morning. I will meet you at your office as soon as we are done without fail.” At 8:45 a.m., Respondent replied, “I have an emergency with my son. Stacy wanted me to come to argue the motion to dismiss. He should be entitled to a postponement. If he can get one he should.” In fact, Respondent did not have an emergency with her son on January 12th and, when she failed to appear for the hearing, the State entered a nolle prosequi.

On March 3, 2016, Ms. Lyles filed a complaint against Respondent with Bar Counsel. Bar Counsel forwarded the complaint to Respondent on March 23, 2016, and requested a written response within 15 days. Respondent failed to respond. Bar Counsel wrote to Respondent again on April 29, 2016, and requested a response within 10 days. Respondent replied by letter, stating that “[Ms. Lyles] is only angry now that her intended theft of my services did not succeed.” She further stated that Ms. Lyles was dishonest and suggested that she was in the business of selling her son’s stolen goods. Respondent made similarly disparaging statements about Ms. Lyles in further correspondence with Bar Counsel. As for her purported emergency with her son, Respondent stated: “My ‘emergency’ was that I was not hired for the case and was not going to allow Ms. Lyles to steal services with fraudulent representations.”

On September 28, 2017, Respondent and Bar Counsel entered into a Conditional Diversion Agreement (“CDA”) under Maryland Rule 19-716, and the underlying disciplinary matter was stayed. Respondent conceded that she violated MLRPC Rule 8.1(b) when she failed to timely and completely respond to Bar Counsel, and that she violated MLRPC Rule 8.4(d) when she made disparaging comments about Ms. Lyles. The terms of the CDA provided that Respondent would obtain professional liability insurance and maintain it through the CDA’s duration, have her law practice monitored for two years, and consult with the Maryland State Bar Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program. The CDA contained an express condition that Respondent not engage in further conduct that would constitute professional misconduct.

Respondent failed to comply with the CDA, however, when she knowingly and intentionally provided a false statement under oath to Bar Counsel in connection with its investigation of Respondent into a complaint filed by another client.

Respondent represented Samuel Goldenberg in six criminal cases. On September 21, 2012, Mr. Goldenberg was charged with theft in District Court; the case was forwarded to the Circuit Court on December 5, 2012 (“Case One”). On December 28, 2012, Respondent entered her appearance on behalf of Mr. Goldenberg in Case One. Mr. Goldenberg agreed to pay Respondent’s standard District Court fee of $1,000 to $1,500.

Mr. Goldenberg wrote Respondent and requested that she obtain the property seized from him during his arrest, including his cell phone and $455 in cash. Mr. Goldenberg told Respondent that she could keep the $455 as part of her fee, but asked that the other property be returned to his mother, Valerie Brown. Respondent did not respond to Mr. Goldenberg’s letter. On or about December 11, 2014, Ms. Brown exchanged text messages with Respondent about the return of Mr. Goldenberg’s property, in which Ms. Brown stated that she wanted Respondent to have the money but that she wanted Mr. Goldenberg’s phone back to facilitate canceling his cellular service with Verizon.

On March 2, 2015, Respondent requested that the State return the $455 seized from Mr. Goldenberg and, on April 7, 2015, she received a check in that amount made payable to Samuel Goldenberg, c/o Gwyn Hoerauf. Respondent kept the $455 as payment of her fee for representing Mr. Goldenberg. Respondent did not request the return of Mr. Goldenberg’s other property, nor did she inform Mr. Goldenberg or his mother that she had failed to request the return of Mr. Goldenberg’s cell phone.

On August 25, 2017, Ms. Brown filed a complaint with Bar Counsel against Respondent. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsely testified to Bar Counsel that she did not inform Mr. Goldenberg or his mother that she would attempt to secure the return of Mr. Goldenberg’s personal property that was seized during his arrest. When asked how much she charged and collected as a fee for each of Mr. Goldenberg’s cases, Respondent was unable to articulate the amount of fees charged and paid by Mr. Goldenberg or his mother in cash or in kind. Respondent never prepared any written retainer agreements, invoices, or accountings in connection with her representation of Mr. Goldenberg.

In or about November 2016, Eric Solomon retained Respondent to represent him in a case pending in the District Court, in which he was charged with crimes relating to allegations that he sexually assaulted K.J., his 16-year-old minor cousin. During the pendency of the case in the District Court, Respondent invited and met with K.J. at her office. K.J. was 17 at the time and accompanied by her parents, but Respondent insisted on meeting with K.J. alone. During the meeting, K.J. told Respondent that she did not want her family to know about her sexual history and drug and alcohol use. Respondent advised K.J. of the types of cross-examination questions that might be asked if the case went to trial, and told K.J. that her personal information could be admitted into evidence through her testimony, including the fact that K.J. had asked her sister and cousin for a ride to CVS to purchase a Plan B pill.

Respondent’s true purpose for meeting with K.J., however, was not to investigate her client’s case, but rather to improperly dissuade K.J. from participating in the criminal prosecution of her client. In speaking with K.J., Respondent intentionally emphasized the potential embarrassment she might suffer if the case proceeded to trial and took advantage of a vulnerable minor’s insecurities. Respondent intended for her comments to discourage K.J. from cooperating, which, by no coincidence, would have benefitted her client.

Bar Counsel charged Respondent numerous violations of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct (“MLRPC”) and the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct (“MARPC”). On April 24, 2020, the Court of Appeals issued a per curiam order disbarring Respondent.

LAW: The hearing judge issued conclusions of law finding Respondent in violation of MLRPC 1.1 (Competence), 1.2(a) (Scope of Representation), 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4(a) and (b) (Communication), 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), and 8.4(a), (c), and (d) (Misconduct), MARPC 19-303.3(a)(1) (Candor Toward the Tribunal), 19-304.3 (Dealing with Unrepresented Person), 19-308.1(a) and (b) (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), and 19-308.4(a), (c), and (d) (Misconduct).

At the time Respondent represented Mr. Goldenberg, Rule 1.1 provided: “A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” In general, this Rule is violated “if an attorney fails to act or acts in an untimely manner, resulting in harm to his or her client.” Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Edwards, 462 Md. 642, 682-83 (2019).

The record was clear that Respondent violated Rule 1.1 in the Brown/Goldenberg matter when she: (1) failed to file a motion for modification of sentence pursuant to Md. Rule 4-345, after informing Mr. Goldenberg she would do so, and then failed to advise him that she did not file such a motion; (2) failed to file a motion for drug treatment on Mr. Goldenberg’s behalf, then misrepresented to Ms. Brown that she had filed such a motion; (3) failed to request the return of Mr. Goldenberg’s personal property, specifically, his cell phone, despite informing Ms. Brown that she would do so; and (4) failed to inform Mr. Goldenberg or Ms. Brown that she had not requested the return of Mr. Goldenberg’s cell phone. These acts and omissions, taken separately or together, demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent failed to provide competent representation to Mr. Goldenberg.

At the time Respondent represented Mr. Goldenberg, Rule 1.3 provided: “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.” This Rule “can be violated by failing to advance the client’s cause or endeavor; failing to investigate a client’s matter; and repeatedly failing to return phone calls, respond to letters, or provide an accounting for earned fees.” Edwards, 462 Md. at 699. “The same rationale that supports a [Rule 1.1] violation can support a [Rule 1.3] violation.” Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Bah, 468 Md. 179, 209 (2020). Here, the hearing judge properly found that Respondent violated Rule 1.3 in the Brown/Goldenberg matter for the reasons stated in reference to Rules 1.1 and 1.4.

Rule 19-303.3(a)(1) provides that an attorney shall not knowingly “make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to a tribunal by the attorney.” “This duty stems from the proposition that every court has the right to rely upon an attorney to assist it in ascertaining the truth of the case before it.” Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Ambe, 466 Md. 270, 295 (2019). Thus, this Rule requires that an attorney be candid at all times with a tribunal. An attorney “violates MARPC 19- 303.3(a)(1) when he or she knowingly provides a court with false information.” Id.

The hearing judge properly found that Respondent violated Rule 19-303(a) in the Ademiluyi/Solomon matter when she knowingly and intentionally misrepresented to the circuit court that she did not know what knowledge Ms. Ademiluyi could have regarding past events in Mr. Solomon’s case. The hearing judge based this conclusion on the evidence presented at the hearing which showed that Respondent herself had provided information about the case, the victim, and Mr. Solomon’s family dynamics to Ms. Ademiluyi. The hearing judge further found that Respondent intentionally misled the court about Ms. Ademiluyi’s source of knowledge in order to conceal Respondent’s involvement in facilitating the attorney-client relationship between Ms. Ademiluyi and K.J., as well as Respondent’s efforts to dissuade K.J. from cooperating with the prosecution.

Respondent violated Rule 8.4(c) in the Brown/Goldenberg matter when she knowingly and intentionally misrepresented to Ms. Brown via text message that she had mailed the motion for drug treatment to the court, even though Respondent never prepared or filed such motion. The hearing judge found that Respondent made this misstatement to Ms. Brown with the intent to deceive her. Furthermore, Respondent’s violation of Rule 19-308.1(a) in the Brown/Goldenberg matter constituted a violation of Rule 19-308.4(c). Respondent also violated Rule 19-308.4(c) in the Ademiluyi/Solomon matter when she made a knowing and intentional misrepresentation to the circuit court in order to conceal the extent of her efforts to dissuade K.J. from cooperating with the prosecution, including facilitating the attorney-client relationship between Ms. Ademiluyi and K.J. Moreover, Respondent’s efforts to dissuade K.J. from cooperating with the prosecution, in a case in which K.J. alleged that she had been sexually abused, violated Rule 19-308.4(d). This conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice in that it “tends to bring the legal profession into disrepute.” Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Reno, 436 Md. 504, 511 (2014).

In sum, it was concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that Respondent violated all of the Rules cited by the hearing judge. Bar Counsel alleged numerous aggravating factors, including (1) prior disciplinary offenses; (2) dishonest or selfish motive; (3) pattern of misconduct; (4) multiple offenses; (5) bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary proceeding by intentionally failing to comply with rules or orders of the disciplinary agency; and (6) substantial experience in the practice of the law. Respondent, on the other hand, offered no mitigating factors.

Accordingly, the Court of Appeals concluded that the appropriate sanction was disbarment.

COMMENTARY: In deciding the appropriate sanction, the Court is guided by its “interest in protecting the public and the public’s confidence in the legal profession.” Attorney Grievance Comm’n v. Lewis, 437 Md. 308, 329 (2014). The purpose in deciding the appropriate sanction “is not to punish the lawyer, but to protect the public, and deter other lawyers from engaging in similar misconduct.” Edwards, 462 Md. at 711. When determining the appropriate discipline, the Court considers “the facts and circumstances of each case and order a sanction that is commensurate with the nature and gravity of the violations and the intent with which they were committed.” Id. at 712.

Here, disbarment was the appropriate sanction for Respondent’s numerous and severe violations of the MLRPC and MARPC. Respondent exhibited dishonesty on multiple occasions. She brought the legal profession into serious disrepute through those acts of dishonesty, and through her attempts to dissuade K.J., an alleged victim of sexual abuse, from cooperating in the prosecution of her alleged abuser, Respondent’s client. It was particularly troubling that Respondent engaged in misconduct relating to the Ademiluyi/Solomon matter while the disciplinary proceeding in the Lyles/Simmons matter was in progress, and after having previously been suspended from the practice of law for 30 days in 2014. Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, which demonstrated a pattern of serious misconduct, it was concluded that the public will only be sufficiently protected through Respondent’s disbarment.

PRACTICE TIPS: In the context of MARPC 19-304.3 (Dealing with Unrepresented Person), “[a]n unrepresented person, particularly one not experienced in dealing with legal matters, might assume that an attorney is disinterested in loyalties or is a disinterested authority on the law even when the attorney represents a client.” Thus, the Rule does not prohibit an attorney from contacting an unrepresented person in connection with a legal matter, but it does require that, in dealing with an unrepresented person, the attorney not mislead him or her about the attorney’s role in the matter.

 

 

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