March 3, 2016.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Case No. 03-C-15-003961.
by Dolores O. Ridgell, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel (Glenn M.
Grossman, Bar Counsel, Marianne J. Lee, Senior Assistant Bar
Counsel, Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland) for
by Richard Wells Moore, Jr. (Timonium, MD) for Respondent.
CJ, Battaglia[*], Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts,
Md. 258] McDonald, J.
attorney disciplinary matter concerns a lawyer with 25
years' experience who was reprimanded by this Court in
2009 for his admitted violations of the Maryland Lawyers'
Rules of Professional Responsibility (" MLRPC" )
relating to neglect of clients and a failure to respond to
requests for information from Bar Counsel. Shortly after
receiving that reprimand, Respondent Richard W. Moore, Jr.
undertook representation of clients in two immigration
matters that took him down the same path of nonperformance of
his professional obligations.
credit, Mr. Moore has, as before, largely admitted the
violations. We also recognize what appears to be his sincere
remorse and the relationship of these violations to his
difficulty in coping with long-standing personal issues. The
hearing judge aptly characterized the source of Mr.
Moore's misconduct as " representational paralysis
in the face of a difficult case rather than ...
dishonesty." Nevertheless, as the regulator of the legal
profession in Maryland, we are obligated to protect the
public as best we can from attorneys who fail, for whatever
reason, to conform to professional norms. Accordingly, we
suspend Mr. Moore from the practice of law indefinitely until
such time as he can satisfy the Court that the misconduct
will not recur.
Md. 259] Background
March 31, 2015, the Attorney Grievance Commission ("
Commission" ) through Bar Counsel, filed a Petition for
Disciplinary or Remedial Action with this Court against Mr.
Moore. The Commission charged Mr. Moore with violations of
MLRPC 1.1 (Competence), 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4 (Communication),
1.5 (Fees), 1.15 (Safekeeping Property), 1.16 (Declining or
Terminating Representation), 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and
Disciplinary Matters), and 8.4(c) & (d) (Misconduct) arising
out of his representation of clients in two immigration
to Maryland Rule 16-752(a), the Court designated Judge Julie
L. Glass of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County to conduct
a hearing concerning the alleged violations and to provide
findings of fact and recommended conclusions of law. Before
the hearing judge, the Commission did not pursue the alleged
violations of MLRPC 1.5, 1.15, and 8.4(c). The parties
entered into a comprehensive stipulation of facts and Mr.
Moore stipulated to most of the remaining violations of the
October 7 and 8, 2015, the hearing judge conducted an
evidentiary hearing, at which several witnesses, including
Mr. Moore, testified and the stipulation and other documents
were admitted into evidence. On November 12, 2015, the
hearing judge issued a thorough memorandum opinion in which
she made detailed findings of fact concerning the alleged
violations, as well as findings concerning aggravating and
mitigating circumstances. In her recommended conclusions of
law, the hearing judge concluded that Mr. Moore had committed
all of the remaining violations charged by the Commission.
party filed any exceptions to the hearing judge's
findings and conclusions. Oral argument before this Court on
March 3, 2016,
largely concerned the appropriate sanction.
hearing judge's fact findings are uncontested, as the
parties stipulated to most of them and no exceptions were
filed [447 Md. 260] by either side. Therefore, we treat the
hearing judge's fact findings as established. Maryland
Rule 16-759(b)(2)(A). Those findings, as well as undisputed
matters in the record, reveal the following.
Moore has been a member of the Maryland Bar since June 1991.
During the period of time pertinent to this case, he
maintained a law office in Baltimore County. Approximately 80
percent of his practice is dedicated to immigration law.
2009, Mr. Moore was reprimanded by consent for failing to
provide diligent representation, failing to communicate with
a client, and failing to respond to requests for information
from Bar Counsel, in violation of MLRPC 1.3, 1.4, and 8.1(b).
See Attorney Grievance Commission v. Moore,
409 Md. 303, 973 A.2d 820 (2009).
of Mauro Pasqualucci
Pasqualucci was born in Italy in 1955, came to the United
States with his family as child in 1964, and has resided
primarily in the United States since that time. Beginning in
1974, near the end of the Vietnam War, he served in the
Marines for two years and was honorably discharged. After his
discharge from the military, Mr. Pasqualucci was convicted of
a drug offense and served time in federal prison. Following
his release from prison in the early 1980s, Mr. Pasqualucci
has worked as a licensed taxi cab driver in Annapolis for the
past three decades, apparently without further incident until
July 2009. At that time, he was arrested by immigration
authorities, and was threatened with deportation to Italy,
apparently based on his decades-old criminal conviction.
his arrest, Mr. Pasqualucci was confined in the Howard County
Detention Center. Mr. Pasqualucci had difficulty
communicating with friends and family outside the detention
center. A friend of Mr. Pasqualucci arranged for Mr. Moore to
represent him and eventually posted a $20,000 bond for Mr.
[447 Md. 261] Pasqualucci's release. Mr. Pasqualucci paid
Mr. Moore $2,500 for his services in the immigration case.
hearing was scheduled before an immigration judge on August
10, 2009 while Mr. Pasqualucci was still being detained.
Although Mr. Moore had been engaged to represent Mr.
Pasqualucci as of that date, Mr. Moore had not filed his
appearance and was not present at the hearing. The hearing
was rescheduled to allow Mr. Pasqualucci time to contact Mr.
same date as the hearing, Mr. Moore sent a letter to Mr.
Pasqualucci, listing several options for avoiding
deportation. One of the options was to file an N-600
Application for Certificate of Citizenship (which would allow
Mr. Pasqualucci to become an American citizen based on the
citizenship of Mr. Pasqualucci's father, who had become a
naturalized citizen in 1967). Although Mr. Moore knew
filing this application could be an appropriate strategy for
Mr. Pasqualucci to avoid deportation, Mr. Moore never
discussed this option further with Mr. Pasqualucci and never
filed the application.
Md. 262] Nine months later, after Mr. Pasqualucci had been
released from the detention center, he had another hearing
before the immigration judge on May 27, 2010. Shortly before
the hearing Mr. Moore appeared at the courthouse and met with
Mr. Pasqualucci for the first time. During the hearing, Mr.
Moore advised the court that Mr. Pasqualucci contended that
he was a United States citizen through his father and thus
was not susceptible to deportation. Mr. Moore admitted that
he did not have any evidence of Mr. Pasqualucci's
citizenship. The court advised Mr. Moore that he had until
July 25, 2010, to provide proof of Mr. Pasqualucci's
claim of citizenship and continued the case until December
subsequent hearing on December 16, 2010, the immigration
judge was reluctant to resolve the case on the materials Mr.
Moore had submitted. At the suggestion of the immigration
judge, Mr. Moore requested, and was granted, a further
continuance to file the N-600 Application. A fourth hearing
was scheduled for August 11, 2011.
Moore did not communicate with Mr. Pasqualucci between the
December 2010 hearing and the August 2011 hearing, even
though Mr. Pasqualucci tried to reach Mr. Moore, eventually
for the purpose of terminating the representation.
Mr. Pasqualucci finally met with Mr. Moore at the August 2011
hearing, he asked Mr. Moore why he had been so unresponsive.
Mr. Moore said that he had been having " personal
issues." During the hearing, Mr. Pasqualucci told the
immigration judge that he wished to terminate Mr. Moore's
representation and the court once again continued the case.
At the hearing, Mr. Moore also asked for a continuance to
file the N-600 Application, which the court again granted.
Mr. Pasqualucci engaged another attorney who filed an
application for citizenship based on Mr. Pasqualucci's
prior military service. On the basis of that application, Mr.
Pasqualucci obtained citizenship on July 19, 2013.
Moore neither filed the N-600 Application nor filed a motion
to strike his appearance even though he understood that he
had been terminated after the August 2011 hearing. [447 Md.
263] Although Mr. Moore had conducted research and gathered
documentation related to Mr. Pasqualucci's childhood,
family history, and education, Mr. Moore did not provide the
research or return the documentation to Mr. ...