Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland
& Office of Bar Counsel
While the attorneys in the Office of Bar Counsel serve as our opposing counsel when we defend Maryland lawyers, we respect their mission to maintain the integrity of the legal profession. They are worthy adversaries. The Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland and Office of Bar Counsel serve to protect the public by investigating and prosecuting Maryland lawyers for ethical violations.
Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland
The Attorney Grievance Commission was established in 1975 to oversee the discipline of Maryland attorneys and review the conduct of attorneys to determine the need for alternatives to discipline. The Attorney Grievance Commission also seeks to prevent the unauthorized practice of law.
According to its Mission Statement, the Commission is dedicated to protecting the public and maintaining the integrity of the legal profession. Through the Office of Bar Counsel, the AGC seeks to encourage and promote the ethical practice of law and the highest standards of professionalism by members of the Bar.
The Commission appoints Bar Counsel and supervises Bar Counsel's investigation and prosecution of disciplinary cases. The Commission also appoints the members of the Peer Review Committee, all of whom are volunteers in each Maryland judicial circuit to conduct the volume of peer review meetings. One-third of all peer review panelists are laypersons residing in Maryland.
The Commission meets monthly, receives reports on receipts and expenditures, disciplinary statistics, the flow of complaints at all stages within the disciplinary process and it reviews personnel performance.
The Commission consists of nine attorneys and three laypersons appointed by the Court of Appeals for staggered three-year terms. Generally a member is eligible for reappointment immediately following the expiration of a full three-year term. Members of the Commission serve without compensation.
- Linda H. Lamone, Esquire, Chair
- J. Donald Braden, Esquire, Vice- Chair
- Betty Smith Adams, Esquire
- Jeffrey P. Ayres, Esquire
- Nicole Barmore, Esquire
- John A. Bielec, Esquire
- Barry P. Gossett
- Timothy M. Phelps
- Linda Bowler Pierson
- William McKay Shipp, Esquire
- Kerry D. Staton, Esquire
- Mayda C. Tsaknis, Esquire
With the approval of the Court of Appeals, the Commission appointed former Assistant Bar Counsel Marianne J. Lee to serve as its Executive Secretary. The Executive Secretary serves as the Commission's "in-house counsel," as liaison to the Chair of the Peer Review Committee, reviews documents filed with the Commission and maintains the records of the Commission.
Office of Bar Counsel
With the Court of Appeals' approval, the Commission appoints an attorney to serve as Bar Counsel. As Maryland's "top lawyer cop," Bar Counsel manages a staff composed of a deputy Bar Counsel, several assistant bar counsel, staff attorneys and investigators. The Office of Bar Counsel conducts the investigation of possible misconduct, the prosecution of disciplinary proceedings, the review of escrow account overdrafts, the investigation of unauthorized practice of law and the investigation of petitions for reinstatement.
After completing an investigation, Bar Counsel recommends that the Commission take various actions, which the Commission may approve or disapprove, or files with the Commission a Statement of Charges with an election for peer review. Peer review panels hold informal meetings with Bar Counsel, the complainant and the attorney and recommend action to the Commission, which it may approve or disapprove. The actions which Bar Counsel or the peer review panels may recommend to the Commission include dismissal or termination of a complaint (with or without a warning); a Conditional Diversion Agreement; a reprimand, or the immediate filing of a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action. A reprimand issued by the Commission is public and appears on the Commission's website on a permanent basis. See Overview of Maryland Attorney Discipline Process, and Attorney Disciplinary Sanctions, Dismissals and Reinstatement. Although Bar Counsel investigate and prosecute complaints against Maryland lawyers, and many complainants turn to the Attorney Grievance Commission to obtain legal fee refunds or other assistance, the Office of Bar Counsel does not represent complainants and the Commission cannot award damages or provide other relief to private parties. As a practical matter, the Office of Bar Counsel takes its consumer protection function quite seriously, as the aim of the attorney disciplinary process is to protect the public from ethical improprieties on the part of Maryland attorneys.
On July 1, 2017, Lydia E. Lawless assumed the position of Maryland Bar Counsel. The other attorneys and investigators in the Office of Bar Counsel are:
- Raymond A. Hein, Deputy Bar Counsel
- Erin A. Risch, Deputy Bar Counsel
- Michael W. Blow, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel
- C. Shea McSpaden, Assistant Bar Counsel
- Jennifer L. Thompson, Assistant Bar Counsel
- Kelsey L. Brown, Assistant Bar Counsel
- Jessica M. Boltz, Assistant Bar Counsel
- Nora A. Nichols, Assistant Bar Counsel
- Christine M. Celeste, Assistant Bar Counsel
- Jerry E. Jones, Assistant Bar Counsel
- Brittany L. Strickland, Assistant Bar Counsel
- Lisa M. Piccinini, Staff Attorney
- Lana B. Hitchens, Staff Attorney
- Jason P. Bogue, Lead Investigator
- William M. Ramsey, Investigator
- Edwin P. Karr, Investigator
- Charles E. Miller, IV, CPA, Investigator
- Cheryl A. Trivelli, Investigator
- Daniel J. Weishaar, Investigator