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Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Poverman

Court of Appeals of Maryland

November 21, 2014

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
CHRISTOPHER W. POVERMAN

Argued October 2, 2014.

Page 668

Argued by Lydia E. Lawless, Assistant Bar Counsel, Glenn M. Grossman, Bar Counsel, Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland, on brief for Petitioner.

Argued by Christopher W. Poverman, Sea Girt, NJ, on brief for Respondent.

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

OPINION

Page 669

[440 Md. 592] Adkins, J.

In this reciprocal attorney discipline action, the Attorney Grievance Commission (" AGC" ) of Maryland, acting through Bar Counsel, asks us to disbar Christopher W. Poverman. On November 7, 2013, the Delaware Supreme Court ordered that Poverman be publicly reprimanded.

Admitted to the Delaware Bar on March 8, 1991, Poverman was on inactive status from 1999 to 2005. After he failed to file a 2005 Annual Registration Statement, the Delaware Supreme Court issued Poverman a show cause order and directed him to appear before them. When Poverman did not appear, he was suspended from the Delaware Bar. Nearly four years later, Poverman filed a petition for reinstatement, which was granted.

By 2013, there were two petitions for disciplinary action pending against Poverman. In case 2012-0228-B (" CLE case" ), the Delaware Office of Disciplinary Counsel (" ODC" ) averred that Poverman violated Delaware Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct (" DLRPC" ) 3.4(c)[1] and 8.4(d).

Page 670

In case 108242-B (" registration case" ), ODC averred that Poverman violated DLRPC 8.4(c) and (d).[2] Poverman filed a response in the CLE case but never filed a response in the registration case.

On June 10, 2013, the Delaware Supreme Court's Board on Professional Responsibility (" Board" ) conducted a hearing regarding [440 Md. 593] the two petitions. Prior to the hearing, Poverman admitted to all violations. Therefore, the hearing--at which Poverman was the only witness--focused on the appropriate sanctions for those violations. Following the hearing, the Board issued findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommended sanction.

THE BOARD'S FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND RECOMMENDED SANCTION

CLE Case

Poverman did not complete his 2011 continuing legal education (" CLE" ) requirement by the February 1, 2012 deadline. In June, July, and August 2012, the CLE Commission sent Poverman several letters and emails regarding his noncompliance. Poverman did not respond to any of this correspondence. Consequently, the CLE Commission sent a statement of noncompliance to ODC and a notice and copy to Poverman.

On August 23, 2012, ODC attorney, Patricia Schwartz, notified Poverman that the CLE Commission had referred the matter to ODC. At that time, Poverman provided ODC his Baltimore office address and cell phone number. On August 24, 2012, Schwartz sent a letter to Poverman at that address, requesting proof of CLE compliance by September 7, 2012. Poverman did not respond to this letter, and he denies having received it. Schwartz sent a September 19, 2012 follow-up letter to Poverman's Baltimore office, citing her August 24 letter and reminding Poverman of ODC's request and his duty, under DLRPC Rule 8.1(b), to respond. Poverman did not respond to this letter either.

After Poverman failed to respond to two letters from ODC, Jennifer-Kate Aaronson, Chief Counsel of ODC, intervened and sent another letter to Poverman's Baltimore office on October 26, 2012. The letter referred to the August 24 and September 19, 2012 letters, highlighted Poverman's violation of 8.1(b), and informed Poverman of a formal ODC investigation and a scheduled presentation to ODC's Preliminary Review Committee (" PRC" ). Poverman, again, did not respond.

[440 Md. 594] Poverman finally called ODC on November 21, 2012 and admitted that he received the September 19 and October 26, 2012 letters. He committed to contacting the CLE Commission and devising a plan to correct his CLE deficiency.

Poverman contacted the CLE Commission on December 6, 2012 and agreed to complete his outstanding CLE by no later than December 31, 2012. Notwithstanding two email reminders from the CLE Commission, Poverman neither completed the CLE by December 31, 2012 nor communicated with the CLE Commission or ODC

Page 671

to let them know he would not fulfill his commitment.

On February 18, 2013, ODC sent a notice to Poverman's Baltimore office, advising that ODC would present its case to the PRC on March 6, 2013 and summarizing the petition to be filed against him. ODC offered Poverman a private admonition and two years' private probation if he consented in writing. On March 12, 2013, ODC sent another letter to Poverman's Baltimore office, advising that the PRC found probable cause to support a petition for discipline, and again offering a private admonition with private probation. Poverman did not accept the offer. Ultimately, he completed the CLE on May 15, 2013, over one year after the deadline.

The Board concluded that Poverman violated DLRPC 3.4(c) and 8.4(d) because he failed to satisfy his 2011 CLE requirement and repeatedly ignored correspondence from the CLE Commission and ODC.

Registration Case

Poverman failed to complete his 2013 Annual Registration Statement by the March 1, 2013 deadline. On March 12, 2013, the Delaware Supreme Court issued an order directing Poverman to appear before the court and show cause why he should not be suspended or sanctioned for such failure. ODC sent the show cause order to Poverman's Baltimore office on March 19, 2013. On March 27, 2013, the date on which he was due to appear before the court to respond to the show cause order, Poverman called ...


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