Argued September 4, 2014.
Circuit Court for Carroll County. Case No. 06-C-13-064592. J. Barry Hughes JUDGE.
ARGUED BY JaCina N. Stanton, Assistant Bar Counsel (Glenn M. Grossman, Bar Counsel, Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland) FOR PETITIONER
ARGUED BY No argument on behalf of Respondent FOR RESPONDENT
ARGUED BEFORE Barbera, C.J., Harrell Battaglia Greene, Adkins McDonald Watts, JJ. Opinion by Barbera, C.J.
[440 Md. 315] Barbera, C.J.
On August 6, 2013, Petitioner, the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland, acting through Bar Counsel, filed with this Court a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action (the " Petition" ) against Respondent, attorney Jason Robin Gelb. The Petition alleged violations of the Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct (" MLRPC" ) in connection with Respondent's misappropriation of his clients' funds and failure to represent his clients competently and diligently. Specifically, the Petition alleged that Respondent violated MLRPC 1.1 (competence); MLRPC 1.3 (diligence); MLRPC 1.4(a) and (b) (communication); MLRPC 1.5(a) and (c) (fees); MLRPC 1.15(a), (c), and (d) (safekeeping property); MLRPC 8.4(a), (c), and (d) (misconduct); Maryland Rule 16-606.1 (attorney trust account record-keeping); Maryland Rule 16-609 (prohibited transactions); and Maryland Code (1989, 2010 Repl. Vol.), § 10-306 of the Business Occupations and Professions Article (hereinafter " BOP § 10-306" ) (misuse of trust money).
On August 12, 2013, this Court designated the Honorable J. Barry Hughes of the Circuit Court for Carroll County (the " hearing judge" ) to conduct an evidentiary hearing and render written findings of fact and conclusions of law. 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 October 7, 2013, the hearing judge entered a default order against Respondent and the matter was set for a hearing to be held on December 13, 2013. Respondent neither moved to vacate the order nor appeared at the hearing.
During the December 13, 2013 hearing, the hearing judge heard evidence from Petitioner, along with three complainants testifying for Petitioner--Alan Jones, Jr., Calvin Jones, and Stephanie Dress. Thereafter, the hearing judge issued written findings of fact and conclusions of law, in which he concluded, by clear and convincing evidence, that Respondent had violated MLRPC 1.1; MLRPC 1.3; MLRPC 1.4(a) and (b); MLRPC 1.5(a) and (c); MLRPC 1.15(a), (c), and (d); [440 Md. 316] MLRPC 8.4(a), (c), and (d); Maryland Rule 16-606.1; Maryland Rule 16-609; and BOP § 10-306. No exceptions were filed.
On September 4, 2014, we held oral argument, at which only Petitioner appeared.
Based on the evidence presented at the December 13, 2013 hearing, the hearing judge set forth findings of fact, which we summarize:
Respondent was admitted to the Maryland Bar on June 13, 2006. In 2010, Respondent was practicing law at the Law Offices of Jason Gelb in Towson, Maryland. Upon information and belief, Respondent is no longer practicing law in this office.
Representation of Alan Jones, Jr.
In April 2010, Alan Jones, Jr. (" A. Jones" ) retained Respondent to initiate
collection actions against debtors to his business, 410 Bail Bonds, LLC (" 410 Bail Bonds" ). Respondent orally agreed to be paid on a contingency basis, but he failed to memorialize this in his written retainer agreement. Respondent also agreed to provide A. Jones with monthly reports of the funds recovered from the collection actions. Although Respondent initially provided A. Jones with the reports, Respondent later repeatedly failed to do so.
On April 14, 2010, A. Jones paid Respondent $500 to cover court costs. On or about July 28, 2011, and on or about October 12, 2011, Respondent issued A. Jones remittance checks from his operating account for $1051.23 and $973.88, respectively.
Respondent failed to pursue three of A. Jones's cases in the District Court of Maryland, sitting in Baltimore County, against obligors of 410 Bail Bonds. The cases were dismissed for failure to prosecute, resulting in a loss of $6,000 in money owed by 410 Bail Bonds's obligors that 410 Bail Bonds was unable to recover.
[440 Md. 317] Representation of Calvin Jones
In 2009, Calvin Jones (" C. Jones" ) retained Respondent to collect debts owed to C. Jones's companies, Mr. Bail Bonds and Elite Bail Bonds. Respondent agreed to be paid on a contingency basis, but he failed to memorialize this in a retainer agreement. Respondent also said that he would issue C. Jones remittance checks from the collection cases and send him monthly reports of the funds collected. On March 30, 2011, Respondent issued C. Jones a remittance check from his operating account for $5,126.58.
At some point during Respondent's representation, Respondent issued C. Jones a check from his trust account that was declined for insufficient funds. At another point, Respondent issued C. Jones a post-dated check. Respondent also repeatedly failed to communicate with C. Jones about the status of his cases, and three of Elite Bail Bonds's cases were dismissed due to Respondent's failure to prosecute.
Representation of Shawn Potochney
In 2010, Shawn Potochney (" Mr. Potochney" ) retained Respondent to initiate collection actions against the debtors of his company, Last Stop Bail Bonds (" Last Stop" ). Respondent orally agreed to receive a 25% contingency fee, but failed to memorialize this in his retainer agreement and, instead, later charged Mr. Potochney a 33% fee for the cases in which Respondent collected funds.
During the course of representation, Respondent failed to provide Mr. Potochney with receipts for the payments Respondent received from Last Stop's collection cases. Respondent also ignored Mr. Potochney's request that ...