Md. high court disbars lawyer who hid drug use, posted offensive comments

Steve Lash//August 18, 2021

Md. high court disbars lawyer who hid drug use, posted offensive comments

By Steve Lash

//August 18, 2021

Maryland’s top court this week disbarred a Pikesville solo practitioner who failed to disclose on his bar application or tell a pre-admission character evaluator of his addiction to unprescribed pain medication, repeatedly violated an ex-girlfriend’s protective order against him, and posted racist and misogynistic comments on his professional social media network.

Christopher Edward Vasiliades’ conduct was intentionally dishonest and undermined the legal profession’s quest for the fair administration of justice, the Court of Appeals said in its 7-0 decision Monday stripping him of his law license.

“The virtues of character, honesty, and integrity are the cornerstones of our legal profession,” Judge Michele D. Hotten wrote for the high court. “We recognize that the underlying conduct that brings this matter before us is not predicated on (Vasiliades’) direct legal representation of clients. Regretfully, that conduct still warrants disbarment.”

Vasiliades said Thursday that the court’s decision “hurts bad.”

“I loved being a lawyer; I took my job very seriously,” he said. “It was all about personal issues I had.”

Vasiliades said he is now considering a career in data analytics.

Vasiliades’ attorney, Joseph Murtha, did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment on the high court’s decision and disbarment order. Murtha is with Rice Murtha & Psoras in Lutherville.

Bar Counsel Lydia E. Lawless, the Attorney Grievance Commission’s chief administrative prosecutor, declined to comment on the Court of Appeals decision.

Vasiliades’ first acknowledged his addiction to Percocet during a bar counsel investigation that followed his admission to the Maryland bar in December 2016.

He had not mentioned his heavy non-prescribed use of the prescription drug in the spring and early summer before taking the bar exam in July 2016, despite a question on the bar application specifically asking applicants if they have any substance abuse condition that could affect their ability to practice law competently, the Court of Appeals stated.

Vasiliades also did not disclose his use of the drugs to the attorney who conducted his character interview, though Vasiliades did acknowledge that his occasional drinking of alcohol had led to citations for disorderly conduct. The interviewer subsequently recommended Vasiliades’ admission to the bar, saying the applicant had been honest with him about his drinking, the high court said.

The court cited the findings of Baltimore County Circuit Judge Colleen A. Cavanaugh, whom it had assigned to hold a hearing in Vasiliades’ disciplinary proceeding.

Vasiliades defended his silence, saying he was never asked specifically about drug use. But the Court of Appeals deferred to the Cavanaugh’s conclusion that the defense was not credible because the interviewer’s questions concerned substance abuse.

The ex-girlfriend’s protective order was served on Vasiliades on Jan. 10, 2019, two days after he had admittedly squeezed yogurt on top of her head after addressing her profanely. A related assault charge against Vasiliades was later dismissed, the high court said.

On Jan. 23, 2019, Vasiliades emailed and texted the ex-girlfriend in violation of the no contact order, the first of many such violations, the Court of Appeals added, citing Cavanaugh’s findings.

Regarding Vasiliades’ social media presence, the high court stated he had maintained Twitter and Instagram accounts in which he advertised his firm, Vas Law LLC.

On those two accounts he posted comments containing the N word and referred to women using the B word. He also retweeted comments containing similar epithets, the court said.

The posts, tweets and retweets, “replete with racial, homophobic, and sexist remarks, conveyed inappropriate bias and were prejudicial to the administration of justice,” Hotten wrote.

“The social media accounts on which these posts and comments appeared were linked to the respondent’s (Vasiliades’) law firm website and were accessible by the public without privacy restrictions,” Hotten added. “The respondent also used his social media accounts to advertise his services and provide legal information.”

Vasiliades said Thursday that he apologizes for those postings.

“That’s one hundred percent on me,” he said. “I shouldn’t have been posting things like that.”

In its decision, the high court weighed Vasiliades’ misconduct in light of aggravating and mitigating factors.

The aggravating factors Cavanaugh found included Vasiliades’ dishonesty, pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses and lack of acknowledgement of the wrongfulness of his conduct.

As for mitigation, the judge found Vasiliades had no prior disciplinary record; has personal and emotional problems he is addressing; has sought to rectify the consequences of his actions by deleting the offensive social media messages and not posting any new ones; has cooperated in the disciplinary proceedings; and has an otherwise positive reputation in the legal community as shown by the six witnesses who testified to his good character.

“(But) we determine that the hearing judge’s findings of mitigating factors … are not sufficient to avoid disbarment,” Hotten wrote.

In ordering Vasiliades’ disbarment, the high court concluded he had violated Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct pertaining to bar admission and general misconduct.

The Court of Appeals rendered its decision in Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Christopher Edward Vasiliades, Misc. Docket AG No. 10 September Term 2020.


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