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Court Proceedings

Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action

Unless the complaint is dismissed or otherwise resolved by agreement of the parties, Bar Counsel institutes more formal proceedings by petitioning the Supreme Court of Maryland for disciplinary or remedial action. Unlike the summary contained in the Statement of Charges, this petition must clearly specify the professional misconduct charged and/or the basis of any allegation that the respondent is incapacitated and should be placed on inactive status.

Discovery and Evidentiary Hearing

Once filed, the Supreme Court of Maryland will enter an order appointing a Circuit Court judge to act on its behalf in overseeing the discovery process, ruling upon motions, holding an evidentiary hearing and issuing factual findings, legal conclusions and recommended action. After being served with this order and a copy of the Petition, the responding attorney has 15 days to file an Answer and either party may request that the Supreme Court of Maryland appoint a different judge within that time.

Unless the respondent defaults by failing to answer the Petition on time, the case proceeds in a manner similar to other civil cases in the Circuit Court, but at a much faster pace. Absent an extension, the trial judge must complete an evidentiary hearing within 120 days of his appointment, and issue his decision within 45 days thereafter.

Laboring under a tight scheduling order, Bar Counsel and respondent’s counsel must comply with the same discovery and evidentiary rules applicable to other civil cases in the circuit court. At trial, the judge may permit any complainant to testify, subject to cross-examination, regarding the effect of the alleged misconduct, the respondent may offer evidence of any action taken to rectify the harm, and Bar Counsel may rebut this evidence.

Ultimately, Bar Counsel must prove misconduct or incapacity by clear and convincing evidence and the respondent must establish any affirmative defenses or mitigating circumstances by a preponderance of the evidence.

Supreme Court Proceedings

After the trial judge issues an opinion presenting factual findings and conclusions of law, the case shifts to the Supreme Court of Maryland where the parties will have 15 days to take exceptions to the trial court’s opinion and to resolve the case in their favor. Once each party has responded to the other’s arguments, the Court will hold an oral argument to review the trial court’s decision.

Although the Court reviews the circuit court’s legal conclusions de novo, it gives great deference to the trial judge’s factual findings. Because the hearing judge had an opportunity to personally assess the credibility of witnesses in the case, the Court will only sustain an exception to these findings if they are clearly erroneous.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Maryland may resolve the case by ordering the respondent attorney’s disbarment, by suspending his privilege to practice law indefinitely or for a specified period, by reprimanding the attorney, by placing an incapacitated attorney on inactive status, by dismissing the case or by remanding it for further proceedings. In appropriate cases, the Court may stay the execution of a suspension, typically by placing the attorney on probation under conditions akin to a Conditional Diversion Agreement. See List of Sanctions & Dismissals in Maryland Attorney Grievance Cases.

Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.


By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.