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Attorney Grievance Commission of v. Sinclair

February 26, 1986

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
JOHN HOWELL SINCLAIR



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, G. R. Hovey Johnson, Judge

Smith, Eldridge, Cole, Rodowsky, Couch and McAuliffe, JJ., and Charles E. Orth, Jr., Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals (retired), Specially Assigned.

Smith

In this case we shall disbar an attorney whose neglect resulted in a default judgment in the amount of $100,000 being entered against his client.

Bar Counsel, acting pursuant to the provisions of Maryland Rule BV9, on behalf of the Attorney Grievance Commission, filed a petition with us seeking disciplinary action against John Howell Sinclair, a member of the Bar of this Court since July 7, 1969. The petition alleged violation of Disciplinary Rules 1-102(A)(1), (4), (5) and (6); 6-101(A)(2) and (3); and 7-101(A)(1), (2) and (3).

Pursuant to Rule BV9 b we referred the matter for hearing to a judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Maryland. He has filed a comprehensive report with us in which he sets forth the following findings of fact:

"1. In October of 1981, Rick Griffith retained John Howell Sinclair to represent him in connection with his claim for monies due under a contract. A retainer fee of four hundred fifty dollars ($450.00) was paid by Mr. Griffith to Mr. Sinclair.

"2. Mr. Sinclair filed a Declaration on Mr. Griffith's behalf in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on October 29, 1981, to wit: Griffith v. Gates, et al.; Law No. 89,066.

"3. Karl G. Feissner, as attorney for the Defendants in Law No. 89,066, filed a Motion for Production of Written Instruments on November 10, 1981, prior to filing an Answer. The Honorable James M. Rea granted

the Motion for Production of Written Instruments on November 30, 1981.

"4. Mr. Griffith advised Mr. Sinclair that documents which would assist his case were located at the real estate office and Mr. Griffith's home and office.

"5. Mr. Griffith and Joan F. Katz, Mr. Griffith's wife, telephoned Mr. Sinclair on a regular basis to check the status of the case and offer any information that was necessary. Mr. Sinclair repeatedly assured them that the case was progressing well and that no information was needed.

"6. However, as indicated in the letter dated March 15, 1982, from Mr. Feissner to Mr. Sinclair, there had been no compliance by the Plaintiff with the Court's Order dated November 30, 1981, requesting the production of written instruments. Mr. Sinclair received and read the letter, but no timely response was filed.

"7. On April 27, 1982, the Defendants filed a counterclaim in Law No. 89,006. Mr. Griffith and Ms. Katz discussed the counterclaim with Mr. Sinclair. Mr. Sinclair found the claim 'funny' and indicated to Mr. Griffith and Ms. Katz that it would not present a problem.

"8. Mr. Sinclair failed to file a timely response to the Defendants' counterclaim.

"9. The Defendants moved for default judgment on their counterclaim. On July 9, 1982, judgment by default was entered against Rick Griffith because the Respondent had failed to file a timely response to the counterclaim.

"10. On August 6, 1982, Mr. Sinclair moved to set aside the judgment by default. The judgment by default was ...


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