Argued: September 3, 2014.
As Corrected January 13, 2015.
ARGUED BY James N. Gaither, Assistant Bar Counsel (Glenn M. Grossman, Bar Counsel, Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland) FOR PETITIONER
ARGUED BY Donald Saunders Litman (Lansdale, PA) FOR RESPONDENT
ARGUED BEFORE Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, JJ. Opinion by Harrell, J.
[440 Md. 206] Harrell,
This reciprocal disciplinary action involves Donald Saunders Litman (" Litman" or " Respondent" ), who was admitted to the Bar of this Court on 18 January 1985 and to the Bar of the [440 Md. 207] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1989. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania censured publically Litman
on 27 November 2012 for violating certain of Pennsylvania's professional conduct and disciplinary rules. Pursuant to Maryland Rules 16-751 and 16-773, the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland, through Bar Counsel, filed a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action on 19 December 2013 against Litman based on his misconduct in Pennsylvania. Bar Counsel attached to its Petition a certified copy of the 12 July 2012 Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a transcript of the public censure, and the 6 March 2012 Report and Recommendation of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
This Court issued a Show Cause Order on 20 December 2013. Bar Counsel, in its response, argued that ordering corresponding discipline in Maryland would result in grave injustice and, rather, that Litman's misconduct warranted disbarment in Maryland. Litman, in response, requested that this Court not impose any discipline as to do so would result in grave injustice to him. He contended also that he was not afforded due process in the Pennsylvania disciplinary proceedings. We entertained the parties' oral arguments on 3 September 2014.
In reciprocal discipline cases, pursuant to Rule 16-773(g), the factual findings of the originating jurisdiction are treated ordinarily as conclusive evidence of an attorney's misconduct. Atty. Griev. Comm'n v. Kourtesis, 437 Md. 436, 445, 87 A.3d 1231, 1235 (2014). This does not preclude necessarily us from considering other evidence provided by the parties,
id., but " we do not relitigate factual matters or a final adjudication by another appropriate tribunal in a disciplinary proceeding." Atty. Griev. Comm'n v. Haas, 412 Md. 536, 546, 988 A.2d 1033, 1039 (2010). As it turns out, the material facts of the present case are undisputed.
[440 Md. 208] The setting for what became Litman's misconduct began before Litman commenced his representation of his client in federal court in Pennsylvania. Hanoverian, Inc., a Delaware corporation, submitted the winning bid for a Pennsylvania landfill sold at auction pursuant to a U.S. Bankruptcy Court order. Hanoverian received a quitclaim deed from the Bankruptcy Trustee on 9 April 2004. Neither the Bankruptcy Court's order nor the quitclaim deed purported to transfer the solid waste permit, issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (" DEP" ) to the previous owner, Quaker Alloy, Inc., needed to operate the landfill. On 3 August 2004, Hanoverian purchased the corporate name " Quaker Alloy, Inc." from the Trustee, again pursuant to the approval of the Bankruptcy Court. Neither the Bankruptcy Court's order nor the sale documents provided for the transfer of any rights under the DEP permit.
Between April 2004 and April 2006 Hanoverian and the DEP were in communication
about its assumption of operations at the landfill. Hanoverian's President and CEO, Donald Metzger, and its general counsel, Craig Edwards, met with representatives of the DEP about the landfill's status. In a letter dated 31 March 2006, the DEP indicated that: (1) Hanoverian would most likely need to apply for a new permit or obtain reissuance of the existing permit; (2) explained the DEP's concerns with the operation of the landfill; and (3) requested documentation demonstrating that Hanoverian was [440 Md. 209] authorized to do business in Pennsylvania. Edwards responded that the landfill was being transferred to Quaker Alloy, Inc. and that, to his knowledge, Hanoverian was not required to register in order to do business in Pennsylvania.
Fifteen days after Edward's response, the DEP notified the Bankruptcy Trustee in a letter that the solid waste permit had been revoked because of Quaker Alloy, Inc.'s dissolution and abandonment of the permitted facility without providing for final physical closure of its operation. The DEP sent a copy of the letter to Quaker Alloy's address of record, but the letter was returned as undeliverable. A notice of the revocation was published in the 29 July 2006 issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin (Pennsylvania's equivalent of the Maryland Register).
In June of 2006, Respondent joined Edwards in forming a law firm, Edwards & Litman, whose sole clients were entities in Donald Metzger's group of companies, including Hanoverian. Edwards was the firm's managing partner. He continued to act as general counsel to Hanoverian and Metzger's other companies.
After commencing representation of Hanoverian, Litman filed a notice of appeal with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board on behalf of " Hanoverian, Inc. d/b/a Quaker Alloy," challenging the DEP's revocation of the solid waste permit. Subsequently, the DEP declared forfeit the bond for the operation of the landfill, submitted by Quaker Alloy prior to its bankruptcy, and commenced an action to collect the bond. Litman responded with a second administrative appeal contesting the bond forfeiture. On 7 December 2006, the Hearing Board issued orders granting motions by the DEP to compel discovery from Hanoverian and consolidating Hanoverian's appeals.
That same day, the DEP issued an Administrative Order charging Hanoverian and Metzger with past and ongoing violations for operating the landfill without obtaining a permit or submitting a bond, failing to implement an approved closure plan, and failing to provide required water sampling and analysis. In response to this initiative, Litman asserted, [440 Md. 210] among other things, that Hanoverian had acquired Quaker Alloy, Inc. from the Bankruptcy Trustee, along with Quaker Alloy's interests in the permit.
On 26 December 2006, Edwards filed amendments to Quaker Alloy's articles of incorporation with the Corporations Bureau of the Pennsylvania Department of State. The amendments provided that Hanoverian's CEO, Metzger, was president, secretary, and treasurer of Quaker Alloy; restructured the capitalization of the corporation; and stated that the corporation would be known as Quaker Alloy, Inc. Hanoverian had applied earlier to ...