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Attorney Grievance Com'n of Maryland v. Pinno

Court of Appeals of Maryland

February 24, 2014

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
Lawrence Paul PINNO, Jr.

Page 160

Lydia E. Lawless, Asst. Bar Counsel (Glenn M. Grossman, Bar Counsel, Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland), for petitioner.

No argument on behalf of respondent.

Argued before BARBERA, C.J., HARRELL, BATTAGLIA, GREENE, ADKINS, McDONALD and WATTS, JJ.

McDONALD, J.

[437 Md. 73] In this attorney discipline case, the facts are uncontested: an experienced attorney failed to perform agreed-upon legal work for several clients, and appears to have abandoned his law practice— and his clients— without notice and without returning unearned fees. We confirm that those actions violated several provisions of the Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct (" MLRPC" ), note that no mitigating circumstances have been proffered or found, and accordingly disbar the attorney.

Background

Procedural Context

This matter consists of two consolidated cases. In the first, No. 30, Bar Counsel,

Page 161

on behalf of the Attorney Grievance Commission (" the Commission" ), filed a petition in September 2011 charging Lawrence Paul Pinno, Jr. with violating MLRPC 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (diligence), 1.4 (communication), 1.15 (duty to keep safe funds of client or third parties), 1.16(d) (duties upon declining or terminating representation), 8.4(b) (criminal actions that reflect on attorney's fitness as a lawyer), 8.4(c) (dishonest, fraudulent, or deceitful conduct), and 8.4(d) (engaging in misconduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) in the representation of four clients.

In the second case, No. 40, filed a few weeks later, the Commission charged Mr. Pinno with similar violations as to two additional clients. In addition, he was also charged in that case with violating Maryland Rule 16-609 (prohibited transactions relating to attorney trust accounts) and Maryland Code, Business and Occupations Article (" BOP" ), § 10-306 (misuse of trust money).

[437 Md. 74] Pursuant to Maryland Rule 16-752(a) and Maryland Rule 16-757, we referred this matter to the Honorable Angela M. Eaves (" the hearing judge" ) of the Circuit Court for Harford County to conduct a hearing and to provide findings of fact and recommended conclusions of law.

After some initial difficulty in effecting service, Mr. Pinno was personally served in Pennsylvania with a summons with respect to both cases in February 2013. However, he did not respond to the petitions and, at the request of Bar Counsel, the hearing judge entered an order of default on April 9, 2013. Mr. Pinno also failed to appear for the hearing scheduled for April 29, 2013. [1] At that hearing, Bar Counsel withdrew charges related to one of the clients in Case No. 40.[2] Bar Counsel also withdrew allegations related to attorney escrow account violations— specifically, alleged violations of Maryland Rule 16-609, BOP § 10-306, and MLRPC 1.15 and 8.4(b) and (c).

The hearing judge considered the pleadings and affidavits submitted by Bar Counsel at the hearing and, in June 2013, issued a memorandum making various findings of fact, concluding that Mr. Pinno had violated several provisions of the MLRPC, and observing that no evidence of mitigating circumstances had been presented. No exceptions have been filed to the hearing judge's findings of fact and recommended conclusions of law. Mr. Pinno did not appear in this Court on the date scheduled for oral argument.

Facts

Mr. Pinno was admitted to the Maryland Bar on December 19, 1975. During the period of time relevant to these proceedings, he maintained a solo law practice in Bel Air, Maryland. [437 Md. 75] On April 7, 2011, after the events recounted below, but before the filing of charges in these cases, Mr. Pinno was decertified from the practice of law in Maryland for failure to pay the annual assessment to the Client Protection Fund.[3]

We accept the hearing judge's findings

Page 162

of fact,[4] which relate the following events:

Small Complaint

On October 15, 2007, Hope L. Small retained Mr. Pinno to file a bankruptcy petition on her behalf. She paid Mr. Pinno a fee of $1,200. She also gave him $295 to cover the fee for filing the petition. Mr. Pinno did not file the bankruptcy petition until more than a year and a half later, in August of 2009.

Mr. Pinno did not inform Ms. Small that a creditors' meeting had been scheduled in her bankruptcy case and, as a result, she did not attend the meeting. Nor did Mr. Pinno attend. Although Ms. Small had provided Mr. Pinno with certain tax documents, he failed to submit those documents as required by the Bankruptcy Court. Ms. Small's ...


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