The Lawyer's Lawyer
Reforming Attorney Discipline
Testifying before the Maryland Court of Appeals, Judge Alan Wilner and Irwin Kramer debate the merits of proposals to reform the attorney disciplinary process.
Issue: Should the Court reform the disciplinary process to enhance its fairness to the attorneys charged and to more proactively address the plight of lawyers in crisis?
Testimony: As Chairman of the Maryland Rules Committee, Judge Wilner presented recommendations which would revise certain procedural rules in more modest ways. An architect of the current system, this jurist argued that the system is not "broken," and -- citing statistics which show that most complaints are resolved without sanction -- is exceedingly fair to attorneys accused of professional misconduct. By contrast, Irwin Kramer argued that the Court can do much more to provide a more level playing field and to better address the concerns of a profession with a higher incidence of addiction, mental illness and suicide than society at large.
Rejecting his proposals for more organized alternatives to discipline in appropriate cases, Judge Wilner defended the status quo. Observing that "the current rules have been in effect for 20 years," Judge Wilner believed that "it says something that given the caseload, given all the attorneys that have been before Bar Counsel and this Court, only one lawyer, Mr. Kramer ... filed a complaint about it." Finding Mr. Kramer's four-pronged proposal to be unnecessary and misguided, the jurist took particular issue with recommendations for remedial education and for a "community service" component that might address the needs of the underrepresented as part of the lawyer's rehabilitation plan: "We don't need a rule on community service any more than a rule on anger management or marriage counseling."
With minor changes, the Court adopted Judge Wilner's recommendations, which largely preserves the 20-year old system and leaves Bar Counsel in charge of the rehabilitation of those she prosecutes.
Meeting Date: June 14, 2021