IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF OTION GJINI TO THE BAR OFMARYLAND
argued: May 10, 2016
Barbera, C.J. Greene Adkins McDonald Watts Hotten Battaglia,
Lynne A. (Retired, Specially Assigned) JJ.
5(d) of the Maryland Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of
Maryland renders this Court the final arbiter of character
and fitness of an applicant:
(d) Review by Court. (1) If the applicant elects not to
withdraw the application, after the Board submits its report
and adverse recommendation the Court shall require the
applicant to show cause why the application should not be
(2) If the Board recommends approval of the application
contrary to an adverse recommendation by the Committee,
within 30 days after the filing of the Board's report the
Committee may file with the Court exceptions to the
Board's recommendation. The Committee shall mail copies
of its exceptions to the applicant and the Board.
(3)Proceedings in the Court under this section shall be on
the records made before the Character Committee and the
Board. If the Court denies the application, the Board shall
retain the records.
Our responsibility to regulate the conduct of attorneys is
highlighted in this matter as we will not grant the
application for admission of Otion Gjini who received a
probation before judgment in 2013 for driving while impaired
and thereafter failed to disclose on his application that he
had received a Petition to Violate Probation and an attendant
Show Cause Order.
Gjini filed an application with the State Board of Law
Examiners ("Board") for admission to the Maryland
Bar pursuant to Rule 2 of the Maryland Rules Governing
Admission to the Bar. In Gjini's Application, dated May 19,
2014, in response to Question 12, which asks for "a
complete record of all criminal proceedings" he
reported, among a number of other offenses, that on August 7,
2013 he had been charged with "driving while impaired by
alcohol" and had received a probation before judgment
("PBJ"). Gjini answered "No" to Question
18, which asked:
Have there been any circumstances or unfavorable incidents in
your life, whether at school, college, law school, business,
or otherwise, which may have a bearing upon your character or
your fitness to practice law, not called for by the questions
contained in this questionnaire or disclosed in your answers?
If so, give full details, including any assertions or
implication of dishonesty, misconduct, misrepresentation,
financial irresponsibility, and disciplinary measures imposed
(if any) by attaching a supplemental statement. You are not
required to disclose, in response to this question, any
juvenile proceeding or any criminal proceeding expunged
pursuant to Maryland law. Maryland law does not permit
expungement of convictions.
Gjini also affixed his signature on the application
immediately beneath Question 20 which informs applicants of
their continuing responsibility to disclose changes to the
information sought by the application:
Affirmation of Applicant's Duty of Full, Candid
Disclosure and Applicant's Continuing Duty to Submit
Written Notice of Changes to Information Sought by the
Application: I understand that the required disclosures in
this questionnaire are of a continuing nature. I hereby
acknowledge my duty to respond fully and candidly to each
question or required disclosure and to ensure that my
responses are accurate and current at all times until I am
formally admitted to the Bar of the State of Maryland. I will
advise the Board immediately and in writing of any
changes in the information disclosed in or sought by this
questionnaire, including any pertinent facts developed after
the initial filing of this application and the facts of any
incident occurring subsequent to the initial filing of this
I do solemnly declare and affirm under the penalties of
perjury, that the matters and facts set forth in the
foregoing application are true and correct.
I have made and retained a copy of this entire
application for my records and for use in the event that the
original is lost in the mail or during the character
(Italics, underlining and emboldening in original).
accordance with Rule 5(b)(1),  Gjini's Bar application was
forwarded to a member of the Character Committee for the
Seventh Appellate Circuit, David DeJong, Esquire, because
Gjini reflected a Montgomery County address. Mr. DeJong
interviewed Gjini on September 9, 2014 and October 23, 2014
and concluded that Gjini had failed to bear his burden of
proving his character and moral fitness for the practice of
law in Maryland because of Gjini's August 13, 2013
driving while impaired charge as well as his extensive
driving record which included another alcohol related offense
for which Gjini was not prosecuted. In addition, Mr. DeJong was
concerned about on-line comments he found that Gjini had
written on internet message boards while in law school. After
Mr. DeJong forwarded his recommendation to the Character
Committee for the Seventh Appellate Circuit and before it
conducted a hearing under Rule 5(b)(2), Gjini received a
Petition to Violate Probation filed by his probation officer
on December 30, 2014 alleging that Gjini had "failed to
verify attending and successfully completing a local Health
Department alcohol treatment program" with a
corresponding Show Cause Order in which Gjini was required to
appear on February 18, 2015 in the District Court for
Montgomery County. Gjini's hearing was postponed due to
weather, and Gjini appeared before a district court judge in
Montgomery County on March 23, 2015, just a few days before
his Character Committee hearing. The district court judge
determined that Gjini had not satisfied the alcohol education
program requirement and gave him sixty days to complete
another program at which time Gjini would need to reappear.
Gjini did not supplement his Bar Application with any of this
information at any time.
to the Character Committee Hearing on March 30, 2015, its
Chair, Benjamin S. Vaughan, discovered Gjini's Petition
to Violate Probation on Case Search; the Character Committee
members questioned Gjini during the hearing about the
omission of information related to the Petition to Violate
Probation. In a split decision, months later, the Committee
recommended Gjini's admission to the Bar, over the
objection of Mr. Vaughan and another member of the Committee,
Victor M. Del Pino.
to Rule 5(c),  the State Board of Law Examiners reviewed
the Character Committee's Report and notified Gjini that
a hearing would be held to afford him the opportunity to
support his admission. The hearing was held on December 11,
2015. Following the hearing, the Board voted unanimously to
adopt the recommendation of the Character Committee that
Gjini be admitted.
Board relied on the findings of the Character Committee to
reach its decision, but none of the findings references
Gjini's failure to disclose the Petition to Violate
Probation, although in the hearings before the Character
Committee and the Board Gjini's failure to disclose the
Petition was explored. The Character Committee Report
A. ON-LINE POSTINGS:
During his investigation of Mr. Gjini's application, Mr.
DeJong discovered, rather serendipitously, several statements
which Mr. Gjini had posted to various chat-rooms on the
internet as recently as his last semester in law-school.
Those postings included commentary upon martial arts videos
and similar matters and are set forth, verbatim, as follows:
"This guy is a dipshit."
"Yo, shut the fuck up so we can watch the video."
"The both fight like hoes."
"The bully kid was a pussie."
"That girl is hot as fuck."
"Who is the faggot that made this video?"
"Just keep games like they are with a PS3 controller.
None of this gay shit."
"Straight NUTT in that bitch."
Mr. Gjini admitted that he posted the statements, above. He
admitted, further, that the statements were posted while he
was in law-school and, in fact, many were placed during his
last semester in law school.
While the undersigned find these postings to be troubling, we
do not believe that they are of sufficient magnitude to
preclude Mr. Gjini from the practice of law.
The substance and nature of the postings may reflect
something of a chasm between persons of Mr. Gjini's
generation and the undersigned members of the Hearing
Committee. The language employed by Mr. Gjini certainly is
not to be applauded and the undersigned would not encourage
its use. Nonetheless, it appears no worse than that which is
commonly found on the internet, and that which is regularly
employed by pop-music stars and sports figures.
Further, we note that Mr. Gjini expressed what we believe was
sincere regrets with respect to the use of such language in
his sworn testimony before this Committee. Thus, Mr. Gjini
testified as follows:
[C]ertainly, this whole process, beginning with Mr. DeJong
pointing it out, was the catalyst that I think is going to
make me change my ways. I've deleted every one of those
comments, because I am legitimately ashamed of them. I'm
not - I don't want to give off the impression that
I'm trying to explain or trivialize these comments, but
there is a distinction to what I meant, because it bothers me
profoundly, not just in this context, but generally. Like, I
almost cried when my Mom was talking, because I am not a
homophobe and I'm certainly not anti-women or anything
like that. And the fact that these comments can be
interpreted, can be correctly interpreted as such is what
bothers me and is why I'm trying to save some face. But
the fact is that I made these comments and I am utterly
ashamed of them.
On balance, we do not believe that the postings, however
unsavory they may be, should prevent Mr. Gjini from
practicing law in the State of Maryland.
B. ALCOHOL-RELATED OFFENSES:
Mr. Gjini admitted that he had been charged with Driving
While Impaired by Alcohol in response to Question 12 (a) of
his application for Admission to the Bar. He further
admitted to receiving probation before judgment. He did not
disclose any prior or subsequent alcohol-related driving
Mr. Gjini did, however, provide a copy of his rather
impressive Maryland driving record. That record reflects a
number of suspensions for various reasons. Notably, it
appears that Mr. Gjini's driving privileges were
suspended on April 25, 2012. The suspension was described
on Mr. Gjini's driving record as "A/R –
Suspended – 1st Offense Alcohol Content .08 or
More." The suspension was associated with ticket No.
AJQ96389. The alcohol-related driving offense identified by
Mr. Gjini in his application was associated with ticket No.
00000000PN0DNG. The date of that offense was August 7,
2013. This clearly followed the initial alcohol-related
suspension of Mr. Gjini's driving privileges in April,
Thus, it would appear that Mr. Gjini was at least
investigated for more than one alcohol-related driving
offense in a relatively short period of time (roughly 18
months), the latter of which was less than a year before he
made application for admission to the Bar. His driving
record from the MVA contains no reference to either offense
other than an entry dated August 7, 2013 (the date of the
second offense) regarding an "Order of Suspension
Issued - Refusal 1st Chemical Test."
With regard to the earlier of the events referenced above,
Mr. Gjini testified as ...