(a) Action for Audit. Bar Counsel or the Trustees of the Client Protection Fund may file a petition requesting an audit of the accounts and records that an attorney is required by law or Rule to maintain. The petition may be filed in the circuit court in any county where the attorney resides or has an office for the practice of law. If the attorney has no established office and the attorney's residence is unknown, the petition may be filed in any circuit court.
(b) Petition. The petition shall state the facts showing that an audit is necessary and shall request the appointment of a Certified Public Accountant to conduct the audit.
(c) Caption. The petition and all subsequent pleadings and papers filed in the action shall contain a caption, “In re: Application for Audit of an Attorney's Accounts and Records.”
(d) Show Cause Order; Service.
(1) Show Cause Order. The circuit court shall enter an order giving the attorney notice of the action and directing the attorney to show cause on or before a stated date why an audit should not be conducted as requested.
(2) Service. A copy of a petition and the show cause order shall be served on the attorney in the manner prescribed in Rule 2-121, or in any other manner directed by the circuit court.
(3) Alternative Service. If after reasonable efforts the attorney cannot be served personally, service may be made on the attorney by sending by e-mail to all e-mail addresses maintained by the attorney with the Attorney Information System in accordance with Rule 19-802.
(e) Response to Petition. The attorney may file a response to the petition and show cause order not later than the date stated in the order or, if no date is stated, within five days after being served.
(f) Order Directing Audit. After considering the petition and any response and upon a finding of good cause, the circuit court may order any of the accounts and records required by law or Rule to be maintained by the attorney to be audited by a Certified Public Accountant designated in the order. The order directing the audit shall (1) expressly require that the audit be conducted and a report be made in a manner that preserves the confidentiality of the proceedings and the attorney's confidential relation with the attorney's clients, and (2) direct the attorney to produce promptly all accounts and records required by the auditor.
(g) Finality of Order. An order granting or denying a petition for an audit is a final order for purposes of appeal.
(h) Confidentiality. Any paper filed in the circuit court with respect to an audit shall be sealed upon filing and shall be open to inspection only by order of the court. A hearing before the court on any petition or motion shall be on the record but shall be conducted out of the presence of all individuals other than Bar Counsel, the attorney, and those individuals whose presence the court deems necessary. Any transcript or recording of the proceedings shall be sealed.
(i) Cost of Audit. Upon completion of the audit, the court may order all or part of the costs of the audit and of the proceeding to be paid by any party to the proceeding, except that costs shall not be assessed against the attorney if the audit fails to disclose any irregularity.
(j) Remedy Not Exclusive. Neither this Rule nor any proceeding under this Rule precludes any other remedy or cause of action while the audit is pending or thereafter.
(k) Sanctions for Violations.
(1) Contempt. If the attorney violates the order of the circuit court entered pursuant to section (f) of this Rule, Bar Counsel may institute a proceeding for contempt pursuant to Rule 15-206.
(2) Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action.
(A) Generally. If the circuit court makes a finding of contempt pursuant to Rule 15-206, Bar Counsel, with the approval of the Chair of the Commission, may file a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action in the Supreme Court pursuant to Rule 19-721 (a)(1). A certified copy of the order of contempt shall be attached to the Petition, and a copy of the Petition and order shall be served on the attorney in accordance with Rule 19-723.
(B) Show Cause Order. When a petition and certified copy of an order of contempt have been filed, the Supreme Court shall order that the attorney, within 15 days from the date of the order, show cause in writing why the attorney should not be suspended immediately from the practice of law until further order of the Supreme Court. A copy of the Petition and show cause order shall be served on the attorney in accordance with Rule 19-723.
(C) Action by the Supreme Court. Upon consideration of the petition and any answer to the order to show cause, the Supreme Court may enter an order: (i) immediately suspending the attorney from the practice of law, pending further order of the Court, (ii) designating a judge pursuant to Rule 19-722 to hold a hearing in accordance with Rule 19-727, or (iii) containing any other appropriate provisions. The provisions of Rules 19-741 and 19-743 apply to an order under this section.
(D) Presumptive Effect of Order of Contempt. A finding of contempt is presumptive evidence that the attorney is in contempt of court, but the introduction of such evidence does not preclude Bar Counsel or the attorney from introducing additional evidence or otherwise showing cause why no suspension should be imposed.
(E) Termination of Suspension. On notification by Bar Counsel that the attorney has purged the contempt, the Supreme Court shall order the attorney reinstated to the practice of law, unless other grounds exist for the suspension to remain in effect.
(l) Other Disciplinary Proceedings. Proceedings under this Rule shall not preclude the use of the facts underlying the order of contempt when relevant to a pending or subsequent disciplinary proceeding against the attorney.