Attorney Grievance Commission v. Cotie W. Jones, Miscellaneous Docket AG No. 9, September Term, 2009
ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE-SANCTIONS-DISBARRMENT: Court of Appeals disbarred the respondent, Cotie W. Jones, for intentional misappropriation of trust money, the use of this money for personal expenses, failure to properly designate his attorney trust account checks, and failure to respond to the petitioner's lawful demands for information which, it concluded, violated Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15, 8.1 and 8.4, as adopted by Maryland Rule 16-812; Md. Rules 16-606, 16-607, and 16-609; and Maryland Code, Business Occupations and Professions Article, §§ 10-306.
Bell, C.J. Harrell Battaglia Greene *fn1 Murphy Adkins Barbera, JJ
The Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland ("AGC"), the petitioner, acting pursuant to Md. Rule 16-751,*fn2 filed, through Bar Counsel, a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action against Cotie W. Jones, the respondent. In the Petition, the petitioner alleged that the respondent violated Rules 1.15 Safekeeping Property,*fn3 8.1 Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters,*fn4 and 8.4 Misconduct*fn5 of the Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct ("MRPC"), as adopted by Md. Rule 16-812; Maryland Rules 16-606 Name and Designation of Account,*fn6 16-607 Commingling of Funds,*fn7 16-609 Prohibited property in which two or more persons (one of whom may be the lawyer) claim interests, the property shall be kept separate by the lawyer until the dispute is resolved. The lawyer shall distribute promptly all portions of the property as to which the interests are not in dispute."
Transactions;*fn8 and § 10-306*fn9 of the Maryland Code (1989, 2010 Repl. Vol., 2011 Supp.) Business Occupations and Professions Article ("BP"), thus subjecting him to BP § 10-606 (b) Penalties.*fn10 He is thus, it submits, subject to this Court's disciplinary authority pursuant to MRPC 8.5 (a).*fn11
Pursuant to Md. Rule 16-752 (a),*fn12 we transmitted this matter to the Hon. Toni E. Clarke of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, for hearing, pursuant to Rule 16- 757.*fn13 Although served with the Petition by the petitioner, the respondent neither filed an answer to the petition nor moved to vacate the Order of Default that the petitioner obtained pursuant to Md. Rules 2-613 (b)*fn14 and 16-754*fn15 (c). Following a hearing, at which the respondent failed to appear and testimony and documentary evidence were received, the hearing court, pursuant to Maryland Rule 16-757 made findings of fact, by the clear and convincing standard, and drew conclusions of law, as follows:
"Respondent was originally admitted to the Bar of the Court of Appeals of Maryland on June 21, 1995. He has maintained a law practice at 1009 Folcroft Lane, Largo, Maryland. On April 6, 2009, by Order of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, Respondent was temporarily suspended and prohibited from the further practice of law in the State of Maryland for nonpayment of his annual assessments to the Client Protection Fund.
"On or about March 28, 2008, Respondent received a check in the amount of $1,000 from his client, World of Hardwoods, Inc. for payment of legal fees. Respondent deposited the $1,000 funds to his attorney trust account on the same day. After the deposit was made, Respondent's attorney trust account had a balance of $1,149.76. Also on March 28, 2008, Respondent deposited a check in the amount of $230.00 from 'Nichelle Owens-Jones' for payment of Respondent's 'bar' dues, totaling Respondent's attorney trust account balance to $1,379.76.
"Subsequently, from March 28, 2008 through April 15, 2008, Respondent issued several checks totaling $1,385.00 to himself 'Cotie W. Jones', his wife, and to other third parties on behalf of himself for payment of his personal and/or business expenses as follows:
Date Check Amount of Payable to of check Nos. check
3/28/08 1455 $40.00 Cotie W. Jones
3/28/08 1457 $50.00 Cotie W. Jones
3/29/08 1458 $150.00 Cotie ...