Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Md. high court disbars lawyer who lied about filing complaint for 6 years

A unanimous Maryland high court on Monday disbarred a Largo attorney who lied to a client for six years about having filed a lawsuit on her behalf.

In its 7-0 decision, the Court of Appeals also said Deidra N. Proctor ignored discovery requests, lied to a judge, charged unreasonable fees and practiced law while her license was suspended for nonpayment of dues.

“Ms. Proctor’s misconduct directly harmed her clients,” Judge Steven B. Gould wrote for the high court.

“Her clients lost claims and defenses due to her serial neglect, paid unreasonable fees, and were deprived of important information necessary to make informed decisions about their cases,” Gould added. “Our review of prior attorney misconduct cases informs us that Ms. Proctor’s actions align with the cases in which we have imposed the sanction of disbarment.”

Proctor, who was a solo practitioner in Largo, did not immediately respond Tuesday to a message seeking comment on the Court of Appeals’ decision.

According to the high court, Proctor promised to but never filed a client’s complaint in January 2006 alleging race and age discrimination in her firing by the company where she had worked for 27 years.

But Proctor reassured Robin Belfast as late as December 2011 that the case was active, and that she was seeking witnesses and engaging in settlement negotiations, the Court of Appeals said, citing findings of the judge it assigned to review the allegations against Proctor.

Proctor, who was admitted to the Maryland bar in 2000, even told Belfast that a trial was scheduled for March 29, 2012. But as that date approached, Proctor finally admitted no lawsuit was pending, the high court said, again citing Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Crystal D. Mittelstaedt.

At that time, Proctor was also under temporary suspension from the practice of law for having failed to pay her annual dues. The suspension lasted from March 15 to April 5, 2012.

With the deadline for suing Belfast’s former employer long expired, Proctor offered her $250,000 to settle the potential legal practice claim. However, Proctor failed in her ethical duty to inform Belfast to seek the advice of other counsel regarding whether to accept the settlement. Proctor then drafted a settlement agreement but reduced the payment to $200,000, which Belfast accepted without advice of counsel, the high court stated.

With Proctor’s installment payments trickling in, Belfast filed a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission in January 2018, at which time Proctor owed her $224,000, including late fees as provided for in the agreement, the high court added.

Discovery violations mounted during Proctor’s representation of Antonia Colvin in trying to fend off a $55,942 claim against her late husband’s estate by King T. Leatherbury Associates Inc. beginning in 2017.

Proctor filed an answer to Leatherbury’s claim in November 2017 but neither responded to the company’s discovery requests nor discussed them with Colvin. Proctor’s failure to respond grew so egregious that Howard County Circuit Court ordered the attorney and Colvin to respond to the discovery requests and pay the company’s counsel fees in connection with the sanctions motion but, again, Proctor never told her client, the high court said.

During the motion for sanctions, Proctor lied to the judge that she had mailed the discovery responses to opposing counsel, the high court added.

The circuit court subsequently issued a default judgment against Colvin and set a damages hearing for Feb. 14, 2019.

The company offered to settle the case for $20,000, with payment due within 45 days. The offer increased to $35,000 after the company heard nothing from Proctor and Colvin.

Proctor advised Colvin to reject the offer and await a more favorable result at the hearing, which was unlikely because the hearing was merely to determine how much Colvin owed, the high court said.

The circuit court awarded the company its full request of $55,942.

Colvin fired Proctor on March 8, 2019, and requested a copy of her file, which Proctor never provided, the high court said.

In another case, Steven Barrow hired Proctor in 2018 to handle his divorce, paid a $5,000 retainer and agreed to a fee of $300 per hour.

Proctor failed to file an answer to the divorce complaint and to respond to discovery, resulting in sanctions. Once, when Barrow submitted discovery responses to Proctor, she failed to provide them to opposing counsel, the high court said.

Barrow fired Proctor after having paid her $15,230 in fees and $1,200 for transcripts, though they cost only $243. Barrow, who received no response from Proctor to his request for his money back, filed a complaint against her with the Attorney Grievance Commission.

During the disciplinary investigation, Proctor failed to respond to discovery requests from the office of bar counsel, the commission’s chief administrative prosecutor, the Court of Appeals said.

Bar Counsel Lydia E. Lawless declined to comment on the high court’s decision.

In stripping Proctor of her law license, the Court of Appeals concluded she had violated Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct pertaining to competence, diligence, communication, fees, candor to the court, unauthorized practice of law and disciplinary matters.

The Court of Appeals rendered its decision in Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Deidra Nicole Proctor, Misc. Docket AG No. 1, September Term 2021.