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Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Burghardt

Court of Appeals of Maryland

March 4, 2015

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
MIRA SUGARMAN BURGHARDT

Argued: 8 January 2015

Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, McDonald, Watts, Raker, Irma S. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION

HARRELL, JUDGE

I. Statement of the Case & Procedural History

Mira Sugarman Burghardt ("Respondent" or "Burghardt"), who was admitted to the Bar of this Court on 17 December 2002, is the subject of this reciprocal disciplinary action. Respondent was admitted also to the Bars of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. At the time of the misconduct underlying the initial sanction imposed on Burghardt, she was practicing in Massachusetts. The Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, Massachusetts, by an Order of Term Suspension in In re: Mira S. Burghardt, No. BD-2013-096, entered 9 October 2013, suspended Respondent from the practice of law in Massachusetts for a period of one year and one day, effective thirty days after the date of entry of the Order. By a Per Curiam Order filed 20 February 2014, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals suspended Respondent, on a reciprocal basis, for a period of one year and one day, nunc pro tunc to 6 December 2013, with reinstatement contingent on a showing of fitness.

Pursuant to Maryland Rules 16-751 and 16-773, the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland ("Petitioner" or "the Commission"), acting through Bar Counsel, filed a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action ("PDRA") on 29 May 2014 against Burghardt based on her misconduct in Massachusetts. Bar Counsel attached to its Petition a certified copy of the 9 October 2013 Order of Term Suspension of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County in Massachusetts, a Summary of the Massachusetts disciplinary action (the "Summary") compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers (based on the record filed with the Supreme Judicial Court), and a copy of the 20 February 2014 Per Curiam Order of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The Summary states the following:

From about May 2008 to September 2011, Respondent was employed by a law firm in Boston, Massachusetts. Between about June 2011 to September 2011, Respondent submitted requests to the firm for reimbursement of expenses totaling approximately $6, 300, which the firm then paid. These expenses were personal and Respondent was not entitled to reimbursement, but Respondent intentionally misrepresented in the requests that the expenses were incurred in connection with firm business. Respondent supported the requests with falsified invoices.
On 21 September 2011, the firm questioned Respondent about the expenses, and Respondent acknowledged that the charges were for personal expenses. She was discharged from employment that day. Respondent reimbursed the firm for the payments she wrongfully received.
On 28 August 2013, bar counsel filed a petition for discipline alleging that Respondent's conduct in submitting false expense reports to the firm and in fabricating documents to support the false expense charges violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c) and (h).[1] That same day, Respondent filed an answer admitting to the facts and rule violations alleged, and the parties filed a stipulation asking that the Board of Bar Overseers recommend a suspension of one year and one day.
On 23 September 2013, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to accept the parties' stipulation. The board filed an information with the Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County. On 9 October 2013, the county court (Gants, J.) entered an order suspending Respondent for one year and one day effective thirty days after entry of the order.

(minor alterations added).

This Court issued a Show Cause Order on 29 July 2014. Bar Counsel, in its Response to the Show Cause Order, argued that Respondent's misconduct warrants disbarment (which Bar Counsel concedes constitutes "substantially different discipline, " within the meaning of Maryland Rule 16-773(e)(4)[2]), based on this Court's imposition of disbarment for dishonest conduct arguably similar to that committed by Burghardt. Respondent, in her Response, maintained that the imposition of reciprocal discipline ("corresponding discipline" to that imposed in the other jurisdictions) is appropriate as her misconduct did not involve client funds or accounts, and because she cooperated fully with the disciplinary authorities of Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and Maryland in the course of their investigations and proceedings in these matters. By an Order dated 24 September 2014, this Court, in accordance with Maryland Rule 16-773(d) (providing for interim suspension), suspended Respondent, effective immediately, from the practice of law in this State, pending further action of this Court. Oral arguments were set for 8 January 2015. In a written notice filed on 29 ...


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