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Court of Appeals suspends Ravenell’s law license after federal conviction

Convicted money launderer Kenneth W. Ravenell’s Maryland law license will be suspended beginning Sept. 6, Maryland’s top court stated in an order issued Thursday.

The Court of Appeals issued its temporary suspension order 15 days after the prominent criminal defense attorney was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison for having laundered nearly $2 million in drug money for a former client.

Ravenell’s open-ended suspension following a conviction is spelled out in Maryland procedural rules and is subject to further action by the Court of Appeals based on such factors as whether the sentence is carried out or the conviction is overturned on appeal.

Ravenell, who is scheduled to begin his sentence of four years and nine months Oct. 15, plans to appeal his conviction to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We think that the Court of Appeals’ action today, by only issuing a temporary suspension and not making it effective until Sept 2022, recognizes the absolute merit of Mr. Ravenell’s appeal of his case before the 4th Circuit,” Randall J. Craig Jr., Ravenell’s attorney in the disciplinary proceeding, stated via email Thursday. “As Mr. Ravenell’s appeal moves forward in the 4th Circuit, we anticipate asking the Court of Appeals for further review as well.”

Maryland Bar Counsel Lydia E. Lawless, the Attorney Grievance Commission’s administrative prosecutor, urged the high court last month to issue the temporary suspension, citing Ravenell’s conviction and sentence in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Craig, of the Craig Law Group in Baltimore, pressed the high court in vain to hold off on the suspension while the conviction is appealed.

“Mr. Ravenell has overwhelmingly demonstrated his effective and unimpeachable abilities regarding all aspects of the practice of law and his well-respected reputation,” Craig wrote to the Court of Appeals. “Accordingly, it is clear that permitting Mr. Ravenell to continue to practice law until the final disposition of his case on appeal presents no danger to the public.”

The ACLU of Maryland, citing its work with Ravenell on civil rights cases, wrote a letter of support.

“We have never before weighed in on an attorney discipline matter,” the group told the high court. “Here, a widely respected and experienced lawyer with an otherwise untarnished record of work and ethical conduct has been acquitted of every single count but one that is going up on appeal, with active clients who simply will not be able to find comparable counsel.”

Lawless declined to comment Thursday on Ravenell’s suspension.

Three judges on the seven-member Court of Appeals recused themselves from the discussion of Ravenell’s discipline, according to the order signed by Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader.

Judges Shirley M. Watts, Brynja M. Booth and Jonathan Biran did not publicly disclose the reason for their recusal.

The Court of Appeals did not explain in its order why the start of Ravenell’s suspension was set at Sept. 6, a date that was not suggested by Lawless or Craig. However, the high court has given suspended attorneys time to close their operations and inform clients to find other counsel prior to the suspension.

Ravenell, most prominently, is representing Anton Black’s family in their federal lawsuit against the Maryland medical examiner’s office and the Eastern Shore towns of Greensboro, Ridgely, and Centreville. The complaint alleges the unarmed 19-year-old Black man was killed in 2018 by police and that the slaying was covered up by a forensic pathology report that blamed the death on a congenital heart defect and bipolar disorder.

The Court of Appeals issued its order in Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Kenneth W. Ravenell, Misc. Docket AG 53, September Term 2021.