Argued: September 7, 2017
Court for Prince George's County Case No. CAE16-25945
Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
22, 2016, Petitioner, the Attorney Grievance Commission of
Maryland ("AGC"), acting through Bar Counsel, filed
in this Court a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action
("Petition") against Respondent, Lance Butler, III.
The Petition alleged violations of the Maryland Lawyers'
Rules of Professional Conduct ("MLRPC") 3.3 (Candor
Toward the Tribunal) and 8.4 (Misconduct). Those violations
stemmed from Respondent materially misrepresenting the
existence of his private law practice and the status of his
personal finances; falsifying his time sheets at his job with
a federal agency; submitting false testimony during his
deposition and hearing in a prior disciplinary proceeding;
making material misrepresentations to the Inspector General
of the federal agency at which Respondent was employed; and,
for multiple years, failing to file certain tax returns and
making misrepresentations on others.
to Maryland Rules 16-752(a) and 16-757, this Court designated
the Honorable Beverly J. Woodard ("the hearing
judge") to hold an evidentiary hearing and make findings
of fact and conclusions of law. On September 6, 2016,
Respondent was served, pursuant to Rule 19-723(b), with the
Petition and "Petitioner's Request for Admission of
Facts and Genuineness of Documents." Respondent failed
to respond to either. On October 6, 2016, Bar Counsel filed a
Motion for Order of Default and Military Service Affidavit.
On November 28, 2016, the hearing judge entered an Order of
Default and mailed a copy to Respondent. The order included
notice to the parties of the scheduled hearing. Respondent
did not move to vacate the Order of Default.
hearing judge held a hearing on January 13, 2017. Respondent
did not appear at that hearing. The hearing judge deemed
Respondent to have admitted both the averments in the
Petition and the facts set forth in Exhibits 1-37 attached to
Bar Counsel's Request for Admission of Facts and
Genuineness of Documents, and treated all matters admitted as
conclusively established. See Md. Rules 2-323(e),
2-424(b), (d); Attorney Grievance Comm'n v.
Bellamy, 453 Md. 377, 385 (2017); Attorney Grievance
Comm'n v. Harmon, 433 Md. 612, 619 (2013). The
hearing judge issued written findings of fact and proposed
conclusions of law, concluding that Respondent had violated
MLRPC 3.3 and 8.4(a), (b), (c), and (d).
exceptions were filed. Respondent made no written
recommendation regarding sanction; Bar Counsel recommended
disbarment. On September 7, 2017, we heard oral argument, at
which only Bar Counsel appeared. On that same date, we issued
a per curiam order disbarring Respondent. Attorney
Grievance Comm'n v. Butler, ___ Md. ___ (2017), 2017
WL 3910147, at *1 (Md. Sept. 7, 2017). We explain in this
opinion the reasons for that action.
Hearing Judge's Findings of Fact
1984, when he was seventeen years old, Respondent began
working for the United States Agency for International
Development ("USAID") as a typist. From 1984 to
2015, he held various non-legal positions at USAID. He
continued to work in a non-legal capacity at USAID while
attending law school and after being admitted to the Bar of
Maryland in 2007 and the District of Columbia Bar in 2010.
addition to his employment at USAID, Respondent maintained a
law office in Prince George's County, Maryland.
Respondent was temporarily suspended from the practice of law
in Maryland on March 20, 2014, for failure to pay the
required annual Client Protection Fund and AGC assessments.
He remained in that status at the time of the hearing.
The First AGC Complaint
April 2012, the USAID Office of the Inspector General
received a complaint about Respondent. The complaint, which
was submitted anonymously, alleged, among other things, that
Respondent falsified his time sheets and purported to attend
fabricated USAID meetings in order to spend time furthering
his private law practice; improperly rendered, and received
payment for, legal advice to his co-workers during work
hours; provided false information about unemployment to his
federal loan servicer to obtain a deferral; and failed to pay
back income taxes.
Inspector General referred the matter to the AGC, which
sought to contact Respondent to elicit a reply to the
allegations. After multiple attempts over many months, Bar
Counsel's investigator finally made contact. Bar Counsel
subsequently charged Respondent with violating MLRPC
8.1(b) for knowingly failing to respond to a
disciplinary authority. Following an evidentiary hearing in
January 2014, the hearing judge found, by clear and
convincing evidence, that Respondent violated MLRPC 8.1. In
an opinion filed on January 27, 2015, this Court reprimanded
Respondent. Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Butler,
441 Md. 352 (2015). As we shall see, the substance of the
allegations in the anonymous complaint, rather than
Respondent's failure to reply to Bar Counsel's
inquiries regarding that complaint, are the subject of the
The USAID Inspector General's Investigation
April 2014, while the prior AGC proceedings were ongoing, the
Inspector General began its own investigation of
Respondent's conduct. The Reporting Agent assigned to the
case reviewed documents and records and conducted interviews
related to the allegations. Among those documents and records
analyzed were Respondent's OGE Form 450
("Confidential Financial Disclosure Report");
search results from Maryland Judiciary Case Search and Public
Access Court Electronic Records (PACER); the websites of the
District of Columbia and Maryland State Bar Associations;
documents provided by Access Group, Inc., the federal loan
processing company referenced in the anonymous complaint;
documents, emails, and personal tax return forms found on
Respondent's government computer; data from
Respondent's parking logs; and records from
Respondent's personnel security file at USAID. The
Reporting Agent interviewed numerous witnesses, including
Respondent's former clients and employees of USAID.
March 10, 2015, the Reporting Agent interviewed Respondent.
During the first hour, Respondent made multiple material
misrepresentations to the Reporting Agent. The Reporting
Agent then revealed that she had been investigating
Respondent since early 2014 and asked if he would like to
revise his prior statements. Respondent admitted that he had
provided untruthful answers.
its investigation was complete, the Inspector General
transmitted a final report to the AGC.
Financial disclosure form
2007 to 2014, in addition to being employed full time by
USAID, Respondent maintained a private law practice in
Maryland and represented clients in roughly fifty separate
matters in court. Respondent also worked part time as a
personal fitness trainer from 2010 to 2014.
federal government employee, Respondent was required to file
an annual ethics disclosure form with the U.S. Office of
Government Ethics to report certain financial information and
outside activities that might present a conflict of interest.
On February 16, 2012, he signed and filed a Confidential
Financial Disclosure Report in which he falsely stated that
he had no reportable assets or sources of income,
liabilities, outside positions, agreements, or arrangements
for himself outside of USAID, and he certified that those
statements were "true, complete, and correct to the best
of [his] knowledge." Moreover, he failed to file the
required financial disclosure reports for the years 2010,
2011, 2013, and 2014.
Unemployment deferment request
2014, the Inspector General reviewed documents provided by
Access Group, Inc., Respondent's student loan servicer.
In September 2010, Respondent became delinquent on his
student loan payments. He filled out and signed an
Unemployment Deferment Request, which indicated that as of
September 25, 2010, he qualified to have his payments
deferred because he "became unemployed or began working
less than full time" and was "diligently seeking
but unable to find full-time employment in the United States
. . . in any field or at any salary or responsibility
level." Respondent also certified that he had "made
at least 6 diligent attempts to find full-time employment in
the most recent 6 months."
January 2011, Respondent faxed a copy of the Request to
Access Group, Inc. He certified that the information he
provided was "true and correct, " despite a clear
warning on the form that "[a]ny person who knowingly
makes a false statement or misrepresentation on this
form" would be "subject to penalties that may
include fines, imprisonment, or both[.]" Respondent
later admitted to the Reporting Agent that he was employed
full-time when he ...