In Re Nicholas Hamilton Cramer for Admission to the Bar of Maryland,
Misc. Docket No. 19, September Term 2006
APPLICATION FOR ADMISSION TO THE BAR OF MARYLAND - An applicant for admission to the Maryland Bar has the burden to prove that he or she possesses the present moral character and fitness to practice law in this State. Where the applicant fails to disclose material facts on his application, exercises poor judgment with regard to the application process and his financial responsibilities and, in addition, his behavior demonstrates a pattern of alcohol related criminal offenses, it is the applicant's responsibility to show convincingly that he has rehabilitated himself such that it is proper that he become a member of the legal profession. On the basis of the record before us, the applicant failed to satisfy his burden considering, among other factors, his incomplete and inaccurate character questionnaire, responses to questions and demands of the character investigator, and omissions of material facts with regard to his criminal history and financial records.
Bell, C.J. *fn1 Raker * Cathell Harrell Battaglia Greene Wilner, Alan M. (Retired, Specially Assigned) JJ.
In this case we are asked to decide whether to grant the petition for admission to the Maryland Bar of Nicholas Hamilton Cramer, who omitted multiple requirements on his initial application to the bar, including his criminal history, the character questionnaire, his credit report, and the lawsuits to which he was a party. In addition, Mr. Cramer continuously displayed a lack of candor in only addressing the gaping omitted sections upon request and by supplementing requisite application material in an untimely, piecemeal fashion. Accordingly, we determine that Mr. Cramer does not possess the requisite moral fitness and character to be admitted to the Maryland Bar.*fn2
The facts are undisputed. On October 30, 1998, Mr. Cramer was arrested in Los Angeles, California for driving under the influence of alcohol. The court documents revealed that Mr. Cramer initially pled not guilty which was later withdrawn and a plea of no contest was entered in its place. As a result of his arrest and conviction for DUI, Mr. Cramer's privilege to drive was suspended. The court, in 1999, placed Mr. Cramer on probation for 36 months and ordered him to pay fines and restitution in the total amount of $1,247.00. Further, as a condition of his probation, the court required Mr. Cramer to successfully complete a three month long first offender program. The suspension of Mr. Hereinafter all references to a rule or the rules are to the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Maryland in effect in 2004.
Cramer's privilege to drive was lifted seven months later. Mr. Cramer, however, did not disclose on his application for admission to the Maryland Bar the occurrence of his arrest and conviction for DUI in California, nor did he explain that when his California license to drive expired, he did not renew it. Moreover, he did not explain that his privilege to drive had been suspended, and reinstated, prior to its expiration. Further, by failing to attach a certified copy of his entire driving history from the Motor Vehicle Authority, the information reported with regard to his driving record was incomplete and misleading.
On February 2, 2004, Mr. Cramer was arrested again and charged with DUI, failure to stay in the appropriate lane, failure to activate lights, reckless driving and driving without a license. The offenses occurred in Runnemede, New Jersey. The New Jersey court found Mr. Cramer guilty of DUI, but not guilty of the other charges. The trial judge ordered the suspension of Mr. Cramer's license for six months and ordered that he pay $250.00 in fines.
In June of 2005, Mr. Cramer was arrested in the District of Columbia and charged with disorderly conduct involving a confrontation with a Metro Transit Police Officer. Mr. Cramer began shouting epithets at the Officer after the Officer ordered Mr. Cramer to stop trekking down the ascending escalator, and instead take the proper moving staircase. The Officer promptly arrested Mr. Cramer and escorted him to a local precinct where Mr. Cramer spent the night in a holding cell. The next day, Mr. Cramer was arraigned, paid a $25.00 fine, and was released. He later admitted to the Board of Law Examiners that he had been drinking earlier on that evening but was not intoxicated and did not believe alcohol was the cause of the offense.
On May 20, 2005, a month prior to the June incident, Mr. Cramer filed an application with the State Board of Examiners ("Board") for admission to the Maryland Bar pursuant to Rule 2.*fn3 On the application, Mr. Cramer failed to disclose his criminal history, infra, and left many requisite items blank, including the questions regarding his credit history and credit delinquencies. In addition, Mr. Cramer indicated in response to Question 7 that he had been "dropped, suspended, placed on probation, or expelled or requested to resign from a school," but did not complete the question by attaching any explanation of the cause, circumstances, or outcome. As to question 5 of the application - requiring the applicant to list any and all places of residency for the past ten years - Mr. Cramer only provided his residence history for the prior eight years. His responses to question 10 regarding a complete list of all lawsuits except divorce and criminal proceedings to which he was a party (sections (a), (b), and (c)) of the application were incomplete. Mr. Cramer declared that he had both a civil judgment in his favor and a second judgment against him, but he did not provide any details as to either judgment or attach certified copies of those judgments and failed to respond to section (c) altogether. Pursuant to Rule 2(d)*fn4 and in accordance with Rule 5(b)(1),*fn5 Mr. Cramer's bar application was forwarded to a member of the Character Committee for the Fifth Appellate Circuit.
During the Committee's investigation, the member assigned to the investigation requested that Mr. Cramer provide supplemental information for those sections on the application that Mr. Cramer left incomplete. Mr. Cramer provided an explanation of his academic probation and an explanation as to why he did not submit details regarding his criminal history, but failed to actually provide a record of his criminal history. Additionally, he did not provide a credit report and he failed to list the lawsuits he had been a party to as required by Question 10. The Committee member subsequently recommended that the Committee conduct a hearing regarding Mr. Cramer's application pursuant to Rule 5 (b)(2)*fn6 because there were grounds for denial. When Mr. Cramer was made aware of the investigating member's recommendation for a hearing, he e-mailed the member a portion of his credit report that he copied and pasted into a new document. Mr. Cramer also e- mailed the member a document containing a list of criminal proceedings in which he was involved. A hearing was held on January 27, 2006, at which time Mr. Cramer waived his right to counsel and proceeded pro se. At that hearing, Mr. Cramer testified as to his own favorable views of his character. No other witnesses were called to testify.
The Committee hearing record revealed that Mr. Cramer omitted requisite portions of the application because he did not allow himself an adequate amount of time to complete the application before the filing deadline. Mr. Cramer submitted an incomplete application with the intent to supplement missing documents at a later date because he allegedly did not want to make any errors by stating erroneous information in haste. Mr. Cramer testified, however, that he failed to file any supplement, acting under the assumption that the Board of Law Examiners would do a criminal investigation of his background and discover all of his offenses. During the hearing, Mr. Cramer also testified that he knew he was required to file a supplement and believes he did fill out and send in the proper form, but acknowledged that the written supplement was never received by the Board and he failed to retain a copy of the supplement for his records.
The record developed before the Committee also revealed that Mr. Cramer only indicated on his application for admission to the Maryland Bar that his California license had expired. He failed to include the fact that, as a result of his driving under the influence conviction, his driving privileges were suspended. Moreover, he failed to furnish a driving record necessitated by his suspension. According to Mr. Cramer, he had not possessed a valid driver's license in the past three years and believed he did not need to note the suspension of his driving privilege on his Bar application. Mr. Cramer testified that he should have disclosed several infractions on his driving record and provided certified copies of the docket entries for the following items: (1) a citation in June 2005 for disorderly conduct; (2) a conviction for driving under the influence in April, 2004, in the State of New Jersey; (3) a conviction for driving under the influence in 1999 in the State of California; and (4) four speeding tickets between 1993-94. The hearing record shows that Mr. Cramer made an attempt to retrieve documentation from the courts in New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and California but could not get certified copies of any of the docket entries. Mr. Cramer was unable to secure certified docket entries from the court in New Jersey because that court requires individuals to retrieve such documents in person. He chose not travel to New Jersey during the month in between his phone call to the court and the time of the hearing in Maryland. Mr. Cramer was able to obtain a docket sheet from both the California court and District of Columbia court but failed to realize the distinction between an uncertified and certified copy. When questioned about the edited credit report he submitted after his interview with the investigating Committee member, Mr. Cramer explained that he believed he only needed to provide a list of items indicating outstanding ...