IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF DEIRDRE PAULETTE BROWN FOR ADMISSION TO THE BAR OF MARYLAND
Argued: May 4, 2016
Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
Battaglia, Lynne A. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.
consider whether to grant the application for admission to
the Bar of Maryland of Deirdre Paulette Brown ("Ms.
Brown"), who failed to disclose a prior felony theft
charge on her application for admission and provided no
credible explanation for her omission; intentionally
misrepresented her grade point average ("GPA") on
her law school resume in order to enhance her qualifications
with a prospective employer; and demonstrated a pattern of
financial irresponsibility with credit account debt.
Character Committee for the Seventh Appellate Circuit
("Committee") recommended Ms. Brown's admission
to the Bar of Maryland by a vote of three to two. The State
Board of Law Examiners ("Board") voted four to
three to adopt the recommendation of the Committee. Upon
consideration of the recommendations of the Committee and the
Board, and based upon our independent review of the record,
we hold that Ms. Brown has not met the burden of establishing
that she currently possesses the requisite moral character
and fitness for admission to the Bar.
Brown graduated from law school in the Spring of 2012. On May
21, 2012, Ms. Brown filed an application with the Board for
admission to the Bar of Maryland pursuant to Md. Rule 19-202
(formerly Rule 2 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar
of Maryland). Ms. Brown's application was forwarded
to Stuart Herschfeld ("Mr. Herschfeld") for review
and the required investigatory interview, pursuant to Md.
Rule 19-203(a)(1) (formerly Rule 5(b)(1) of the Rules
Governing Admission to the Bar of Maryland). Thereafter, Mr.
Herschfeld requested that Ms. Brown supplement her
application to address the status of outstanding debts and
the criminal and civil matters noted in her file. Although
Ms. Brown supplemented her file, Mr. Herschfeld believed that
the information provided failed to address his concerns
regarding her application and raised additional questions
regarding Ms. Brown's misrepresentation of her law school
grades and her academic probation during college.
Ms. Brown refused to provide further information to
supplement her file, because she was unsuccessful on the July
2012 Maryland Bar Examination. When Ms. Brown passed the
February 2013 Examination, she contacted Mr. Herschfeld to
inquire about the status of her Bar application. On May 23,
2013, Mr. Herschfeld issued a memorandum recommending against
Ms. Brown's admission, which stated, in relevant part:
decision is premised upon the following:
1. While she did not disclose in her application the academic
issue regarding a misrepresentation of her GPA for which she
was sanctioned by her law school, I found her explanation
troubling as she readily admits that she made the
representation deliberately to gain a benefit in job search
opportunities. Subsequently, there was some documentation
provided that further muddied the issue rather than
clarifying it as is demonstrated in this file.
2. Ms. Brown never provided a full explanation and response
regarding the various outstanding balances to creditors as
well as to update me regarding the status of debts that she
was not aware of at the time of our interview as to how she
was planning to resolve these outstanding debts.
There are other matters that certainly may not weigh in her
favor regarding the application, but these are the two
primary reasons for which I cannot recommend her as an
applicant to the State of Maryland Bar at this time.
7, 2013, the Chair of the Committee, Benjamin Vaughan
("Mr. Vaughan"), submitted a letter to Ms. Brown,
advising her of Mr. Herschfeld's recommendation and her
right to a hearing pursuant to Md. Rule 19-203(a)(2)
(formerly 5(b)(2) of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar
of Maryland). Hearings were held before the Committee on
February 23 and April 14, 2015, to address the facts and
circumstances concerning the following matters: past criminal
charges against Ms. Brown of making a false statement to a
police officer and felony theft; her failure to disclose the
theft charge on her Bar application; her financial
irresponsibility; a reprimand from Ms. Brown's law school
for falsifying information on her resume; and whether the
foregoing events reflected a cumulative pattern of
dishonesty, a lack of candor, and a failure to honor legal
commitments. In attendance were several committee members,
including the Mr. Herschfeld, who testified regarding his
recommendation and the reasons supporting his position. Ms.
Brown appeared without counsel, testified on her own behalf,
and offered into evidence additional documentation requested
by the Committee concerning a statement of criminal charges
and an academic reprimand letter from her law school.
on August 4, 2015, the Committee issued a report, which
included two written dissents, recommending by a three to two
vote that Ms. Brown be admitted to the Bar of Maryland. The
Committee rendered the following findings of fact and
conclusions, which we summarize:
and Delinquent Debts
Brown reported five credit accounts that were delinquent for
more than ninety days: 1) Westlake Financial Services, with
an unpaid balance of $ 9, 973; 2) Santander Consumer USA,
with an unpaid balance of $ 4, 789; 3) Midland Credit
Management, Inc., with an unpaid balance of $720; 4) HSBC
Bank, with an unpaid balance of $1, 014; and 5) Afni, Inc.,
with an unpaid balance of $260. During Ms. Brown's
October 2012 interview, Mr. Herschfeld believed that Ms.
Brown was unclear regarding the status of the unpaid balances
and her ability to satisfy the arrearages. Mr. Herschfeld
sought specific information regarding the debts, and
exchanged several e-mails with Ms. Brown in connection with
his requests. In a letter dated November 15, 2012, Ms. Brown
indicated that she had no additional documentation regarding
her creditors. In Mr. Herschfeld's May 2013 memorandum,
he recalled Ms. Brown's assertion that the resolution of
any issues with her creditors was not relevant, since she did
not pass the bar examination.
on February 22, 2015, Ms. Brown submitted additional
documentation reflecting that all five outstanding loan
balances were resolved. Ms. Brown further explained:
My problems with past debt have been due to poor financial
planning on my part. I have learned from this and have
re-paid all accounts that I owed. As evidence of my ability
to be financially responsible I have two open accounts that
are in good standing. A Wells Fargo Credit Card opened in
2012 and a Capital One automobile loan opened in 2013.
Committee did not discover any information that
"contradict[ed]" or "call[ed] into question[,
]" Ms. Brown's most recent representation regarding
her outstanding debts, and therefore, was satisfied that she
demonstrated her character and moral fitness for the practice
of law with respect to her credit account debt.
1992, Ms. Brown was charged with making a false statement to
a police officer and felony theft. She only disclosed the
charge of making a false statement on her Bar application.
The charges arose from an alleged robbery that occurred on or
about October 10, 1992, while Ms. Brown was a manager in a
retail clothing store in Prince George's County. The
charging document for the false statement reflected the
[Ms. Brown] made a report that she was the victim of a
robbery. [Ms. Brown] stated that she left the T/A and was on
her way to make the night deposit, when a black male grabbed
her and pulled her into a deserted hallway. [Ms. Brown] said
that she dropped her hand bag [and] the deposit bag and ran
back into the main hallway to call for help. [A mall
employee] who was closing up her ear piercing booth stated
that she observed [Ms. Brown] walking past her booth and
there was no one else in the [hallway] at the time. [T]he
mall was closed. The ear piercing booth is located
[approximately] twenty feet from the hallway of the alleged
incident. [The mall employee] also stated that [Ms. Brown]
walked calmly out of the hallway as though nothing was wrong.
Landover Mall Security SPO Grey who was at the outside
entrance to the hallway stated that no one came out of the
This investigator checked the [hallway] [and] there is no way
the alleged suspect could have escaped through the hallway
without being seen. A check with the District Manager . . .
indicated that [Ms. Brown] was not allowed to make deposits
by herself. Ms. Brown stated the opposite[.] Ms. Brown stated
that her boyfriend . . . was in the area of the T/A at around
9:00 [p.m.] but only stayed for about five minutes. SPO Gray
and SPO Chase both security guards at the [L]andover [M]all
indicated that they both observed the boyfriend around the
T/A until closing at 10:00 [p.m.] The boyfriend [then]
re-appeared from the opposite side of the mall just after the
robbery [(alleged)]. A total of $1, 817 was allegedly taken
from [ ] the District manager who is responsible for T/A
On [October 12, 1992] this investigator was assigned this
case for follow-up investigation. After talking to the
persons mentioned in this application based on this
investigator['s] training and experience, the statements
made to P/O Officer Neel 1776 on [October 10, 2012]
concerning this robbery are false. . . .
Brown denied making a false statement during her October 2012
interview and during the hearings.
Brown's charge for felony theft in connection with the
1992 incident was not reported on her Bar application.
Question Number 12 of the application required that she
provide "a complete record of all criminal proceedings
(including traffic citations, arrests, and summonses) to
which [she is or has ever been] a party. . . ." Ms.
Brown testified that she did not disclose the theft charge
because she was not aware of it.
explained that when she initially sought the criminal records
from the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, she
was only provided documents relating to the false statement
charge. The record reflects that the felony theft charge was
listed under a separate case number, but a part of the
October 1992 incident. At the request of the Committee, Ms.
Brown produced a copy of the Statement of Charges, which
indicated that she was charged with theft in excess of $300
cash from New Retail Concepts.
entries revealed that both charges were placed on the
docket on September 20, 1993. The record does not reflect
convictions for either charge. During Ms. Brown's
testimony, she recalled that at the direction of a Public
Defender, she pled "not guilty[, ]" but agreed to
accept the stet. Ms. Brown further testified that she
subsequently hired an attorney to remove the charges from the
stet docket before the stated time period, after being
advised that she should not have accepted it. The record does
not reflect whether Ms. Brown's attempt was successful.
The Committee concluded that the charges did not reflect
negatively on Ms. Brown's character, given their
remoteness in time, the fact that they were placed on the
stet docket, and did not result in convictions. The Committee
found that Ms. Brown was "entirely candid" in
discussing the charges before them.
Reprimand for ...