March 4, 2016.
Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland. Case
by JaCina N. Stanton, Assistant Bar Counsel (Glenn M.
Grossman, Bar Counsel, Attorney Grievance Commission of
Maryland) For Petitioner.
by Patrick Tachie-Menson (Columbia, MD) For Respondent.
C.J., [*] Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald,
Watts, Hotten, JJ.
Md. 279] Hotten, J.
attorney discipline proceeding involves a lawyer who was only
licensed to practice in the District of Columbia, yet
represented a defendant pro bono for a criminal
proceeding in a Maryland District Court, sitting in Prince
George's County (" District Court" ), and made
a false statement to Bar Counsel regarding his pro hac
vice admission to the Maryland Bar.
D. Hunt (" Respondent" ) was admitted to the Bar of
the District of Columbia on November 1, 1999, and at all
times relevant to this case, maintained a law office in
Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland ("
Petitioner" ), filed a Petition for Disciplinary or
Remedial Action against Respondent on February 27, 2015.
Petitioner requested that this Court take appropriate
disciplinary action against Respondent for violating the
Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct ("
MLRPC" ) (Md. Rule 16-812) during his unauthorized
representation of Jaimel Fatin Peace (" Mr. Peace"
) in the District Court. Petitioner alleged violations of
MLRPC 1.1 (Competence), 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4 (Communication),
5.5 (Unauthorized Practice of Law, Multijurisdictional
Practice of Law), 8.1 (Bar Admission and Disciplinary
Matters), and 8.4 (Misconduct).
Court, by an order dated March 17, 2015, transmitted the
action to the Circuit Court for Prince George's County,
and designated the Honorable Albert W. Northrop (" the
hearing judge" ) to enter findings of fact and
conclusions of law. On November 2, 2015, a hearing was held,
and on November 25, 2015, the hearing judge issued Findings
of Fact and Conclusions of Law. The hearing judge found that
Respondent violated MLRPC 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 5.5(a) and (b),
8.1(a), and 8.4(a), (b), (c), and (d).
March 4, 2016, we heard oral argument. For the reasons
outlined below, we uphold the hearing judge's Findings
[447 Md. 280] of Fact and Conclusions of Law, and order that
Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for 60 days.
The hearing judge's findings of fact
hearings judge's findings of fact, beginning with
Respondent's representation of Mr. Peace, were as
On March 13, 2013, Jaimel Fatin Peace (" Mr. Peace"
) was arrested for possession of controlled dangerous
substances (" CDS" ) -- not marijuana. On April 8,
2013, Respondent appeared on Mr. Peace's behalf for a
preliminary hearing ... in the District Court for Prince
George's County. Respondent represented Mr. Peace on a
pro bono basis. During the April 8, 2013, hearing,
Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss on Mr. Peace's
behalf as his attorney. Respondent's Motion to Dismiss
did not contain a Certificate of Service. During the April 8,
2013, preliminary hearing, the court set Mr. Peace's
criminal hearing for June 27, 2013. On or about June 11,
2013, Respondent filed a " Motion to Withdraw as Counsel
in Mr. Peace's case. Respondent's Motion to Withdraw
did not contain a Certificate of Service. On June 12, 2013,
Respondent's Motion to Withdraw was denied because it did
not have a Certificate of Service. Mr. Peace's criminal
proceeding occurred on June 27, 2013. Although Respondent was
still counsel of Record for Mr. Peace, he was not present
during the June 27, 2013 hearing.
On July 2, 2013, the Honorable Thomas J. Love issued a Show
Cause Order for Respondent to appear before him in court on
August 29, 2013 due to Respondent's failure to appear at
the June 27, 2013 hearing. Judge Love also rescheduled Mr.
Peace's criminal hearing for August 29, 2013. On or about
July 24, 2013, Respondent filed a Motion to request that the
court dismiss the Show Cause order and grant his Motion to
Withdraw from Mr. Peace's case. Respondent's
Certificate of Service for his July 24, 2013 Motion listed
Mr. Peace's address instead of opposing counsel's
address. On or about August 6, 2013, the court denied [447
Md. 281] Respondent's July 24, 2013 Motion. Respondent
failed to appear at the Show Cause hearing scheduled on
August 29, 2013.
On October 3, 2013, Judge Love filed a complaint with the
Attorney Grievance Commission- Office of Bar Counsel.
On December 13, 2013, Bar Counsel wrote to Respondent stating
inter alia, " If you are not a Maryland
Attorney, please advise this office whether you were admitted
pro hac vice in the underlying matter of State
v. Jaimel Fatin Peace." On February 4, 2014,
Respondent sent Bar Counsel a response to its December 13,
2013 letter. Respondent stated in his February 4, 2014
letter: " However, please be advised that I am not an
attorney licensed in Maryland, but was being admitted pro
hac vice in the underlying matter of State v. Jaimel
Fatin Peace before Mr. Peace informed me that he [sic]
longer wanted me to repr[e]sent him in the above-referenced
Respondent testified in his deposition for this matter that
he contacted Maryland attorney Bruce Johnson, Esquire
sometime during mid-2013 concerning Mr. Johnson sponsoring
his pro hac vice admission to Maryland. However,
Respondent failed to take any discernable steps to file a
pro hac vice motion in Maryland before representing
The hearing judge's conclusions of law
on the above findings of fact, the hearing judge concluded
that Respondent violated MLRPC 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 5.5(a) and (b),
8.1(a), and 8.4(a), (b), (c), and (d).
1.1 requires that " [a] lawyer ... provide competent
representation to a client. Competent representation requires
the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation
reasonably necessary for the representation." The
hearing judge concluded that " Respondent's admitted
ignorance of the Maryland Rules and repeated errors in filing
his Motions violated [MLRPC] 1.1." The hearing judge
observed [447 Md. 282] that Respondent had filed motions
lacking certificates of service, and failed to send the
motions to opposing counsel.
hearing judge also noted that " Respondent testified in
his deposition that he believed his appearance in Mr.
Peace's case had essentially been struck once he filed a
Motion to Withdraw with the District Court." Respondent
was obviously mistaken, and according to the hearing
judge, Respondent had a duty to " keep abreast of
changes in the law and its practice," see
comment 6 to MLRPC 1.1, yet Respondent " had little to
no knowledge of the Maryland Rules because he was not
admitted to the Maryland Bar." The hearing judge opined
that " [c]laimed ignorance of ethical duties... is not a
defense in disciplinary proceedings." (quoting
Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Awuah, 346 Md. 420,
435, 697 A.2d 446, 454 (1997)).
1.3 provides that " [a] lawyer shall act with reasonable
diligence and promptness in representing a client." The
hearing judge concluded that, because the District Court
denied Respondent's Motion to Withdraw as Counsel for Mr.
Peace, Respondent violated MLRPC 1.3 by failing to attend the
June 27, 2013 hearing. The hearing judge also concluded that
MLRPC 1.3 was violated by Respondent's failure to attend
the August 29, 2013, show cause hearing.