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Attorney Grievance Com'n of Maryland v. Frost

Court of Appeals of Maryland

February 26, 2014

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
James Albert FROST.

Page 265

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 266

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

James Albert Frost, for Respondent.

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

GREENE, J.

[437 Md. 249] The Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland (" Petitioner" or " Bar Counsel" ), acting pursuant to Maryland Rule 16-751(a), filed a " Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action" against James Albert Frost (" Respondent" or " Frost" ), on December 5, 2012. Petitioner charged Frost with violating various Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct (" MLRPC" or " Rule" ), specifically Rule 8.1 (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters),[1]RULE 8.2(A) (judicial and legal officials); [2] AND RULE 8.4(a), (c) and (d) (Misconduct).[3]

Pursuant to Maryland Rule 16-752(a) (Order Designating Judge), this Court referred the matter to the Honorable Paul F. Harris of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County to conduct an evidentiary hearing and to render findings of fact and recommend conclusions of law pursuant to Maryland Rule 16-757. After Petitioner made reasonable attempts to personally serve Respondent with a copy of the Petition for Disciplinary [437 Md. 250] or Remedial Action and related papers, including discovery requests and a written request for admission of facts and genuineness of documents,[4]

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Petitioner effectuated service on Respondent by serving the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland pursuant to Maryland Rule 16-753.[5] Respondent filed no response to the Petition for Disciplinary Action and discovery requests, including the Requests for Admissions, prompting the hearing judge's entry of an order of default. See Md. Rule 16-754(c) (providing that the failure to file an answer shall be treated as a default).

On May 14, 2013, Judge Harris conducted a hearing on the merits. Respondent failed to appear for or participate in the hearing. During the brief hearing, Petitioner requested that all of Petitioner's Requests for Admissions, which went unanswered by Respondent, be deemed admitted. Judge Harris granted the request and accepted the Requests for Admissions into evidence. Thereafter, the hearing judge issued " Findings [437 Md. 251] of Fact and Conclusions of Law," in which he found by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent's actions constituted violations of MLRPC 8.1(b), 8.2(a), 8.4(a), (c) and (d). In doing so, Judge Harris made the following findings of facts:

Respondent was admitted to the Maryland Bar on June 29, 1972. He does not maintain an office for the practice of law. On April 23, 2012, Respondent wrote an email to his ex-wife, stating, inter alia:
With regard to Case # 110082-C, you know or should know that: (1) Ann S. Harrington, a lawless judge, arranged for deputy sheriffs of the Montgomery County, MD, Sheriff's Office to illegally arrest me on May 13, 2008, with no probable cause to do so and there by committed the crime under State of Maryland law of making a false report to an agency of the state with police powers; ... (3) There was no basis in law or in fact for Judge Stephen P. Johnson, a weak man and corrupt judge acting under improper and political influence, to have me locked up in the county jail on a " no bond" order for 87 days and 87 nights but that's what was done; and (4) The crooked State's Attorney for Montgomery County, MD, John J. McCarthy, Esq., a proté gé of Douglas F. Gansler, Esq., the corrupt Attorney General of Maryland, and a political ally of Maryland Governor O'Malley, a pretty-boy hack politician, didn't let his assistant prosecutors drop the phon[y] charge against me until August 8, 2008.
With regard to Case # 11041-C ... you know or should know that the Maryland State Police deceived District Court of Maryland Commissioner Kaitlyn Boyle into signing a warrant to arrest me and then deceived Circuit Court Judge Joseph A. Dugan, Jr., into signing a search and seizure warrant by and through perjury on the warrant applications signed on August 13, 2008, by Maryland State Trooper Michael Brennan, who was ordered to do that by Maryland State Police Captain Clifford T. Hughes, his supervisor,

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and Maryland State Police Superintendent Terence B. Sheridan, who were acting under improper and political influence exerted (through an intermediary) [437 Md. 252] by Governor O'Malley and his wife, Judge of the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City Catherine Curran O'Malley.
Respondent made the April 23, 2012 statements regarding the Honorable Ann S. Harrington, specifically calling her a " lawless judge" and accusing her of " arrang[ing] for deputy sheriffs of the Montgomery County, MD Sheriff's Office to illegally arrest [him]" knowing the statements to be false and with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity. Respondent has no facts to support the statements made regarding Judge Harrington.
Respondent made the April 23, 2012 statements regarding the Honorable Stephen P. Johnson, Retired Judge for the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County, specifically calling him " a weak man and corrupt judge acting under improper and political influence ..." knowing the statements to be false and with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity. Respondent has no facts to support the statement regarding Judge Johnson.
Respondent made the April 23, 2012 statement regarding John J. McCarthy, State's Attorney for Montgomery County, specifically calling Mr. McCarthy a " crooked" State's Attorney, knowing the statement to be false and with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity. Respondent has no facts to support the statement regarding Mr. McCarthy.
Respondent made the April 23, 2012 statement regarding Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland, specifically calling Mr. Gansler " corrupt," knowing the statement to be false and with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity. Respondent has no facts to support the statement regarding Mr. Gansler.
Respondent made the April 23, 2012 statement regarding Governor O'Malley, specifically that he exerted " improper" influence over members of the Montgomery County Police Department, knowing the statement to be false and with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity. Respondent has no facts to support the statement regarding Governor O'Malley.
[437 Md. 253] Respondent made the April 23, 2012 statement regarding the Honorable Catherine Curran O'Malley, Judge [for the] District Court of Baltimore City, specifically that she exerted " improper" influence over members of the Montgomery County Police Department, knowing the statement to be false and with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity. Respondent has no facts to support the statement regarding Judge Curran O'Malley.
On or about May 2, 2012, Respondent mailed a copy of the April 23, 2012 email to George Meng, Esquire. Prior to May 2, 2012, Respondent had no relationship or communication with Mr. Meng. On or about May 2, 2012, Respondent forwarded a copy of the April 23, 2012 email to Paul Carlin, Esquire. On or about May 2, 2012, Respondent forwarded a copy of the April 23, 2012 email to Katherine Kelly Howard, Esquire.
On May 4, 2012, Mr. Meng emailed Respondent asking why the April 23, 2012 email was sent to him, directing him to Rule 8.2, 8.3 and 8.4 of the Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct and requesting a response as how the April 23, 2012 email did not violate Rules 8.2 and 8.4 and did not require reporting to Petitioner pursuant to

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Rule 8.3. On May 10, 2012, no response having been received to his May 4 email, Mr. Meng again emailed Respondent requesting a response to the questions posed on May 4, 2012. On May 18, 2012, Respondent emailed Mr. Meng stating, " You should have something from me in your mail Monday." On May 18, 2012, Respondent mailed Mr. Meng a letter directed to Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger, Montgomery County, Maryland. The May 18, 2012 letter did not, in any way, respond to the questions posed by Mr. Meng in his emails of May 4 and May 10. Mr. Meng received the May 18, 2012 letter on May 21, 2012. On May 21, 2012, Mr. Meng emailed Respondent again requesting a response to his May 4 and May 10 emails.
On May 23, 2012, no further communication having been received from Respondent, Mr. Meng filed a complaint with the Petitioner and enclosed: (1) Respondent's April 23, 2012 [437 Md. 254] email, (2) Mr. Meng's May 4, 2012 email to Respondent, (3) Mr. Meng's May 10, 2012 email to Respondent, (4) Mr. Meng's May 18, 2012 email to Respondent, (5) Respondent's letter of May 1, 2012 to Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger, and (6) Mr. Meng's May 21, 2012 email to Respondent.
By letter dated July 11, 2012, Bar Counsel forwarded a copy of the May 23, 2012 complaint and enclosures to Respondent and requested a response thereto be provided, in writing, no later than July 27, 2012. Respondent received Bar Counsel's July 11, 2012 letter and enclosures. On or about July 26, 2012, Respondent sent a letter to Bar Counsel stating: " The statements of mine concerning which objections have been presented to your office are protected from state action by the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution." On or about July 27, 2012, Respondent sent a letter to Bar Counsel stating, inter alia:
How did it happen, I wonder, that ten days after my e-mail message of April 24 long-time A.G.C. of Maryland Commissioner George Meng (to whom I had forwarded that email on the subject perjury ) sends me an e-mail message (for the first time in his life) with the absurd allegation that I'm in violation of Rule 8 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility? No reasonably prudent individual would believe that you and he and, most likely, some other people had not conferred with one another about me and my truth-telling before on May 4th George undertook his fruitless efforts to have me assume the role of attorney respondent who offers an explanation/states some defense to a " complaint." How did you as the Maryland Bar Counsel dare to get involved in this sort of activity, Glenn? You should be ashamed of yourself.
By letter dated July 31, 2012, Bar Counsel directed Respondent's attention to Rule 8.2(a) and specifically requested evidence to substantiate his April 24, 2012 statements regarding The Honorable Ann S. Harrington, The Honorable Stephen P. Johnson, State's Attorney John J. McCarthy, and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. A written response was required no later than August 13, 2012. Respondent [437 Md. 255] received Bar Counsel's letter dated July 31, 2012. On or about August 4, 2012, Respondent sent a letter to Bar Counsel stating " The statements of mine concerning which objections have been presented to the Office of Maryland Bar Counsel are protected from state action by the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the

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United States Constitution." On or about August 6, 2012, Respondent sent a copy of the August 4, 2012 letter to Bar Counsel with the handwritten notation: " Ms. Lawless, Your letter to me dated July 11th constitutes state action."
Respondent never provided a substantive response to Bar Counsel's requests for information dated July 11, 2012 and July 31, 2012. Bar Counsel's requests for information were lawful. On or about August 15, 2012, Respondent sent a letter to Bar Counsel demanding to know how many complaints Bar Counsel had initiated. On or about September 13, 2012, Respondent sent a copy of a letter addressed to " The Members of the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland" to Bar Counsel. The September 13, 2012 letter requested the commission " order Mr. Grossman to answer truthfully in writing the question posed to him in [the] August 15th letter post haste. " In addition to sending the September 13 letter to Bar Counsel, Respondent sent copies to the members of the Attorney Grievance Commission. On or about September 19, 2012, Respondent sent a copy of his August 15, 2012 letter to Bar Counsel.

Judge Harris further entered the following conclusions of law, determining that Respondent violated MLRPC 8.1(b), 8.2(a), 8.4(a), (c) and (d):

Rule 8.1 . Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters

* * *

Respondent violated Rule 8.1(b) when he failed to provide any substantive response to Bar Counsel's letters dated July 11, 2012 and July 31, 2012 ...

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