Argued: October 11, 2016
Court for Baltimore City Case No. 24-C-15-005773 AG
Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
attorney disciplinary matter concerns Ms. Susan Myra Geller
Kirwan ("Ms. Kirwan"), Respondent, a lawyer who was
retained in October 2013 to represent a minor child in a
negligence case against Baltimore City Public Schools. Ms.
Kirwan neglected to pursue substantive action in furtherance
of the child's case after she was retained and failed to
respond to her client's numerous requests for
Attorney Grievance Commission ("Commission"),
Petitioner, filed a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial
Action with this Court alleging multiple violations of the
Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct
("MLRPC"). After an evidentiary hearing, the hearing
judge issued written findings of fact and conclusions of law
to this Court, concluding that Ms. Kirwan violated MLRPC 1.1,
1.3, 1.4(a)(2)-(3) and (b), 1.16(d), 8.1(b), and 8.4(a) and
(d) as charged by the Commission. We agree. Accordingly, we
suspend Ms. Kirwan from the practice of law indefinitely.
October 27, 2015, the Commission, through Bar Counsel, filed
a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action with this
Court against Ms. Kirwan. The Commission charged Ms. Kirwan
with violations of MLRPC 1.1 (Competence), 1.3 (Diligence),
1.4(a)(2)-(3) and (b) (Communication), 1.16(d) (Declining or
Terminating Representation), 8.1(b) (Bar Admission and
Disciplinary Matters), and 8.4(a) and (d) (Misconduct)
arising out of her representation of Ms. T.S. ("Ms.
S.") and her minor child, T.N.
to Maryland Rule 16-752(a), the Court designated Judge
Cynthia H. Jones of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City to
conduct an evidentiary hearing concerning the alleged
violations and make findings of fact and recommended
conclusions of law.
evidentiary hearing was conducted on April 4, 2016, at which
several witnesses testified including Ms. Kirwan. On May 12,
2016, 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 Ms.
Kirwan committed all of the violations charged by the
party filed any exceptions to the hearing judge's
findings of fact and conclusions of law. On October 11, 2016,
oral arguments were presented to this Court by Ms. Kirwan and
the Commission, which primarily focused on the appropriate
hearing judge's factual findings are uncontested since
neither party filed any exceptions. Therefore, we treat the
hearing judge's fact findings as established. Md. Rule
16-759(b)(2)(A). Those findings are summarized as follows.
Kirwan was admitted to the Maryland Bar on December 30, 1983.
At all times from October 2013 through the present, Ms.
Kirwan has maintained a law office in Baltimore City.
October 7, 2013, Ms. Kirwan was retained to represent T.N., a
minor child who suffered a broken wrist on a Baltimore City
elementary school playground. T.N.'s mother, Ms. S,
retained Ms. Kirwan to pursue a claim against Baltimore City
Public Schools for the child's injury. Ms. S. signed a
retainer agreement and forms authorizing Ms. Kirwan to have
access to T.N.'s school and medical records. After the
retainer was signed, Ms. Kirwan maintained contact with Ms.
S. for two months regarding T.N.'s case, and Ms. Kirwan
received a copy of T.N.'s medical records from Ms. S.
in December 2013, Ms. Kirwan became unresponsive to Ms. S.
Between December 5, 2013, and May 29, 2014, Ms. S. called Ms.
Kirwan and left four messages with Ms. Kirwan's answering
service. The messages asked Ms. Kirwan to return Ms. S.'s
calls, to provide an update on T.N.'s case and to notify
her if Ms. Kirwan did not want to handle T.N.'s case. On
May 29, 2014, Ms. S.'s message stated she had called Ms.
Kirwan numerous times without receiving a call back.
then attempted to communicate with Ms. Kirwan through email.
Ms. S. emailed Ms. Kirwan twice on June 9, 2014, asking Ms.
Kirwan to call her with an update on her child's case.
Ms. Kirwan replied to Ms. S.'s email on June 10, 2014,
indicating she would be in touch with Ms. S. later that day
or the following afternoon. Ms. S. responded by providing her
work and mobile phone numbers to facilitate this
communication. However, Ms. Kirwan failed to make the
promised phone call. So, Ms. S. sent Ms. Kirwan an email two
days later stating she still had not received a call back and
requesting Ms. Kirwan call her that day. Again, Ms. Kirwan
did not respond.
S.'s attempts to contact Ms. Kirwan continued. On June
12, 2014, Ms. S. emailed Ms. Kirwan asking what work Ms.
Kirwan performed and whether Ms. S. should retain a new
attorney. Ms. S. sent a second email on June 12, 2014,
requesting an update on the case. On July 18, 2014, Ms. S.
left another phone message with Ms. Kirwan's answering
service requesting an update on the case and indicating that
the call was urgent. Ms. Kirwan did not respond to Ms.
S.'s emails or phone message.
August 26, 2014, Ms. S. filed a complaint against Ms. Kirwan
with the Commission. Ms. S.'s complaint stated, "I
have been calling and leaving messages. No response!!! I
don't know what is going [on] with [T.N.'s] case
against the Baltimore City School system."
September 2014, Ms. S. unsuccessfully continued her attempts
to reach Ms. Kirwan by leaving another phone message and
visiting Ms. Kirwan's office in person, where she slid a
note under Ms. Kirwan's office door.
to Respond to Bar Counsel
September 30, 2014, the Commission sent a letter to Ms.
Kirwan indicating that a complaint, unrelated to Ms. S.'s
complaint, against Ms. Kirwan was dismissed. However, the
Commission issued a warning to Ms. Kirwan for failing to
respond to Bar Counsel's lawful demand for information in