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Md. high court walks back discovery change in attorney grievance cases

Attorney Irwin R. Kramer, who had sought a revision of the discovery rule, was the target of criticism from the Maryland Judiciary’s rules committee chair. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

The Court of Appeals has modified its discovery rules in attorney grievance proceedings, but not before a Tuesday meeting to discuss the issue turned into a scathing critique of a lawyer who is a vocal member of the Judiciary’s rules committee.

Retired Court of Appeals Judge Alan M. Wilner said that the lawyer, Irwin R. Kramer, is “causing a problem on the committee” and asked Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader to consider issuing a warning.

Wilner said the rules committee, which he chairs, has for decades operated with courtesy and respect among its members.

“Regrettably, this longstanding approach of civility has been significantly jeopardized by one member: Mr. Kramer, who in his short service on the committee, has shown little or no respect for anyone who disagrees with him, who insists on dominating the conversation, often using inappropriate, insulting language,” Wilner said.

Wilner continued: “The worst of this is in subcommittee meetings, where he knows that the conversation is not recorded.”

Kramer, who often tangles with bar counsel, did not have an opportunity to respond during the meeting.

After the meeting, he said in an email that lawyers “must be able to debate issues without resorting to ad hominem arguments. I have found the Rules Committee to be a respectful forum in which to do so.”

Fader interrupted before Wilner could conclude his remarks about Kramer and redirected the conversation to the rules change in question, which was initiated by Kramer’s complaint that accused lawyers were hindered by a recent rule that limited discovery in attorney grievance cases.

Kramer raised concerns about the amended rule, 19-726, which could be interpreted as not allowing respondents to demand written discovery, including interrogatories and requests for admissions, from bar counsel.

In one pending attorney grievance case, Kramer sought to depose Bar Counsel Lydia E. Lawless after she denied his efforts to gather written discovery, citing the newly updated rule. An Anne Arundel County Circuit judge quashed Kramer’s deposition request after Lawless filed a motion for a protective order, also citing the new rule.

The new rule required bar counsel to turn over its investigative files in attorney grievance cases. But, as Judge Brynja M. Booth said at a previous meeting about the change, the rule was intended to establish a “floor, as opposed to a ceiling” for discovery in those cases.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the judges agreed unanimously to walk back the changes and once again allow respondents to request interrogatories and other written discovery. Additionally, the regular rules of civil discovery will apply in attorney grievance cases.

The change will be effective Wednesday. The judges moved to implement the rule quickly because one attorney grievance case, involving Kramer, has been stayed while the rule was under consideration.

That case involves Montgomery County Circuit judge candidate Marylin Pierre, who is accused of misrepresenting or failing to disclose information about legal action taken against her in the 1990s, when she allegedly defaulted on several student loans, evaded service of court summons in Montgomery County and ultimately was taken into custody for less than a day after failing to appear in court.

The petition against Pierre also accuses her of misrepresenting her legal experience and of making “knowingly and intentionally false” statements about sitting judges in Montgomery County during her failed judicial campaign in 2020. Pierre is running for judge again this year.

Kramer turned to increasingly personal attacks against Lawless during his campaign to get the discovery rule changed. He accused Lawless of having a “hidden agenda” aimed at limiting discovery so that she could win attorney grievance cases at all costs.

Wilner criticized those comments when he rebuked Kramer at Tuesday’s meeting. Lawless declined to comment.