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Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Friedman

Court of Appeals of Maryland

March 24, 2014

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
JOSEPH LEE FRIEDMAN

Argued February 11, 2014.

Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Case No. 03-C-12-010757.

Lydia E. Lawless, Assistant Bar Counsel (Glenn M. Grossmanm Bar Counsel, Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland) FOR PETITIONER.

Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, JJ. Opinion by Barbera, C.J.

OPINION

Page 1226

[437 Md. 428] Barbera, C.J.

On October 17, 2012, Petitioner, the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland (" Commission" ), acting through Bar Counsel, filed with this Court a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action (" Petition" ) against Respondent, Joseph Lee [437 Md. 429] Friedman. The Petition alleged violations of the Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct (" MLRPC" ) and the Maryland Rules in connection with Respondent's depositing personal funds into an attorney escrow account in order to shield those funds from garnishment by the United States Internal Revenue Service (" IRS" ). Specifically, the Petition alleged that Respondent had engaged in professional misconduct by violating MLRPC 1.15(b) (safekeeping property)[1]; MLRPC 8.4 (c) and (d) (misconduct)[2]; and Maryland Rule 16-607 (commingling of funds).[3]

[437 Md. 430] On October 18, 2012, this Court designated the Honorable Patrick Cavanaugh of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County

Page 1227

(" the hearing judge" ) to conduct an evidentiary hearing and file written findings of fact and conclusions of law. See Md. Rules 16-752(a) and 16-757(c). Respondent was served with process, in compliance with Maryland Rule 16-753, but did not file a response to the Petition, timely or otherwise. Accordingly, on April 30, 2013, the hearing judge entered a default order against Respondent and the matter was set for a hearing on May 29, 2013. Respondent, though notified of the default order and hearing date, neither moved to vacate the order nor appeared at the hearing.

During the May 29 hearing, the hearing judge received evidence from the Commission, acting through Bar Counsel. Shortly thereafter, the hearing judge issued written findings of fact and conclusions of law, in which he concluded that Respondent had violated MLRPC 1.15(b), MLRPC 8.4(c) and (d), and Maryland Rule 16-607.

On February 11, 2014, we held oral argument, at which only the Commission, acting through Bar Counsel, appeared. The next day, we entered a per curiam order disbarring Respondent. We shall explain in this opinion the reasons for Respondent's disbarment.

I.

Based upon the evidence he accepted at the May 29, 2013, hearing, the hearing judge set forth the ...


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