Argued: September 12, 2017
Court for Baltimore County Case No. 03-C-16-010220
Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
Maurice Marnea Moody, gained admission to the Bar of Maryland
on June 5, 1996. On June 22, 2016, the Attorney Grievance
Commission ("the Commission" or
"Petitioner"), through Bar Counsel, filed in this
Court a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action
("Petition") against Respondent. Bar Counsel
charged Respondent with violating the Maryland Lawyers'
Rules of Professional Conduct ("MLRPC") and the
Maryland Rules governing attorney trust accounts.
Specifically, Bar Counsel alleged that Respondent violated
the following provisions: MLRPC: 1.15 (Safekeeping Property),
8.1 (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), 8.4
(Professional Misconduct), Maryland Rules 16-606.1 (Attorney
Account Record-Keeping), 16-607 (Commingling Funds), and
16-609 (Prohibited Transactions).
Court transferred the case to the Circuit Court for Baltimore
County on September 29, 2016, for fact-finding proceedings.
On October 5, 2016, Petitioner was unable to serve the
summons on Respondent prior to its expiration. The clerk
reissued the summons and the Client Protection Fund
("CPF") served the summons on Respondent on
December 13, 2016. At that time, the CPF provided Respondent
with the Petition, transmittal order, and summons at three
different addresses. Respondent's Answer to the Petition
were due on January 3, 2017. On January 6, 2017, the circuit
court entered a Default Judgment against the Respondent,
because he failed to file a timely answer. On that same day,
the court scheduled a hearing for February 9, 2017, and the
Respondent failed to appear. Subsequently, on February 23,
2017, Respondent filed a Motion to Vacate the Default
Judgment, which Petitioner opposed. The circuit court
ultimately denied the Respondent's Motion on February 28,
hearing judge rescheduled the matter for March 1, 2017. On
that day, Respondent failed to attend also failing to respond
to Petitioner's discovery requests. Therefore, Pursuant
to Maryland Rule 2-424, the hearing judge admitted into
evidence Petitioner's Request for Admissions of Fact and
Genuineness of Documents along with other documents obtained
throughout the investigation. Thereafter, the hearing judge
issued written findings of fact and proposed conclusions of
law, concluding that Respondent had in fact violated MLRPC
1.15, 8.1, 8.4(d), and Maryland Rules 16-606.1, 16-607, and
16-609. Respondent filed no exceptions and there was no
recommendation regarding the appropriate sanction. Petitioner
recommended disbarment. Following oral argument, this Court
issued a per curiam order disbarring Respondent.
This opinion details the rationale for our decision.
The Hearing Judge's Findings of Fact
5, 1996, Respondent gained admission to the Maryland Bar. On
June 29, 2004, this Court ordered, by consent, that
Respondent receive a 90-day suspension for violations of the
then-named MLRPC 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.16(d), 8.1(b), and 8.4(d).
The facts presented demonstrated that Respondent failed to
attend a hearing during a child support case, failed to file
a post-conviction petition, failed to obtain service of
process in a divorce case, and failed to timely file a claim
for uninsured motorist benefits. On January 11, 2005,
Respondent was reinstated after serving the suspension.
December 2014, Respondent received a Commission reprimand due
to his failure to maintain adequate records regarding his
attorney trust account, resulting in an overdraft from that
account. Respondent also commingled client and third-party
funds, resulting in a violation of MLRPC 1.15(a).
Specifically, the reprimand stemmed from Respondent's
failure to withdraw earned fees promptly from his attorney
trust account. Consequently, Respondent was required to meet
with a Commission Investigator, and review the accounting
rules and a DVD explaining Escrow Management.
the instant Petition, the Commission received a notice from
M&T Bank on January 20, 2015, referring to a January 14,
2015 overdraft of Respondent's trust account. The notice
revealed that Check No. 1033 in the amount of $104.00 was
presented for payment, but the account did not contain
sufficient funds to cover the check, which resulted in an
overdraft in the amount of $26.79. Thereafter on January 27,
2015, Bar Counsel sent letters to Respondent, both by regular
and certified mail, seeking an explanation for the overdraft,
requesting that Respondent produce copies of his trust
account records from November 2014 until January 2015.
Respondent replied to Bar Counsel's letter on or about
February 5, 2017, but failed to produce the records.
April 22, 2015, Bar Counsel sent a letter to Respondent,
again requesting copies of his trust account bank records. On
May 6, 2015, Bar Counsel received a copy of Respondent's
ledger titled "Check Register for Attorney Trust
Account" ("Check Register"). Additionally, Bar
Counsel received copies of Respondent's client ledgers,
checks, deposit slips, and bank statements for the period
between November 2014 and January 2015. Bar Counsel sought an
admission of fact from Respondent that he had prepared and
reviewed his check register for accuracy. Respondent did not
respond to Bar Counsel's request, thereby admitting that
he prepared and reviewed his check register for accuracy.
See Md. Rule 2-424(b).
Counsel noted several discrepancies reflecting attorney
misconduct. Specifically, Respondent's Check Register
provided that Check No. 0055, in the amount of $7, 850.60,
was made payable to USAA for his client B. Jackson for
medical services. However, a copy of Check No. 0055 revealed
that the check was made payable to the Respondent.
Respondent's Check Register also indicated that Check No.
1024, in the amount of $1, 050.00, was made payable to Will
Mcines for his client, S. Jones, for medical services.
Further, the Client Ledger Card for S. Jones listed Will
Mcines, MD, as a medical provider in relation to her personal
injury matter. In addition, the Client Ledger Card for M.
Jones also indicated that Respondent issued a check payable
to Will Mcines, MD for $1, 050.00. Further investigation
revealed that Will Mcines was not a physician, medical
professional, or medical provider, but instead, was
Respondent's landlord from whom Respondent rented office
space. As a result, Bar Counsel concluded that the Check
Register and Client Card entries were fraudulent.
Check Register provided that both Check No. 1027, in the
amount of $750.00, and Check No. 1041, in the amount of
$300.00, were made payable to Respondent, for his client, L.
Jones, for fees. However, further investigation revealed that
this entry was fraudulent and that Respondent's Client
Ledger Card for L. Jones showed that the fee was in fact $1,
650.00, not the $1, 050.00 that Respondent paid from his
trust account. Further, with regard to S. Jones,
Respondent's Check Register provided that Check No. 1029,
in the amount of $500.00, Check No. 1039, in the amount of
$1, 000.00, and Check No. 1040, in the amount of $600.00,
were made payable to Respondent for fees totaling $2, 100.00.
However, the Client Ledger Card for S. Jones indicated that
Respondent received $2, 164.00 for fees. Moreover,
Respondent's Disbursement Sheet for S. Jones listed the
fee as $2, 000.00, an amount contradicting the other records.
These irregularities reflected a pattern of improper record
keeping that resulted in erroneous fee payments.
its investigation, Bar Counsel also identified additional
discrepancies in Respondent's accounting for L. Jones.
Specifically, the Check Register listed that Respondent
issued Check No. 1030, in the amount of $459.00, on behalf of
L. Jones to Maryland Healthcare Clinics ("MHC") for
medical services. However, the Client Ledger Card indicated
that Respondent paid $984.00 to MHC for L. Jones' fees. A
copy of the check showed conclusively that MHC was in fact
only paid $459.00 on behalf of L. Jones for medical services.
Next, the Check Register indicated that Respondent issued
Check No. 1038, in the amount of $688.00 to L. Jones for the
settlement of the Jones matter. A copy of Check No. 1038
matched the Check Register but the Client Ledger Card for L.
Jones indicated that the amount of settlement disbursed to L.
Jones was actually $2, 688.00.
addition to the above discrepancies, the hearing judge also
found violations with regard to the representation of M.
Brice. Respondent's Check Register reflected that Check
No. 1043, dated December 20, 2014 in the amount of $500.00,
and Check No. 0055, dated January 7, 2015 in the amount of
$600.00, were both made payable to Respondent for fees
totaling $1, 100. The Respondent's Client Ledger Card,
however, reflected that, as of April 22, 2015,
Respondent's fee for representing M. Brice was $1, 022.00
and that as of July 14, 2015, the fee was $2, 072.00. The
Client Ledger Card also reflected that $1, 050.00 was paid to
Mr. Mcines, the Respondent's landlord and was not on
behalf of M. Brice. The Check Register also reflected that on
December 25, 2014, Respondent wrote Check No. 055, for
$500.00, on behalf of M. Brice to MHC for medical services.
An actual copy of Check No. 055, dated December 24, 2014,
showed that it was in fact made payable to Respondent for
$500.00. Notably, the Client Ledger Cards for M. Brice
reflected that as of July 14, 2015, Mr. Brice had an
outstanding bill of $1, 828.00, owed to MHC. The Disbursement
Sheet for M. Brice reflected, however, that Mr. Brice's
bill from MHC was only $1, 728.00.
hearing judge found a final instance of subpar accounting
practices in the case of Respondent's representation of
B. Jones. The Check Register indicated that Respondent wrote
Check No. 1042 for $1, 000.00 on January 26, 2015 to himself
for fees. The Client Ledger Card for B. Jones reflected
however, that Respondent was due $2, 212.00 for
representation of B. Jones.
1, 2015, Bar Counsel sent a letter to Respondent requesting
an explanation regarding the payments to Will Mcines, MD on
behalf of S. Jones and M. Brice. On July 16, 2015, Bar
Counsel received a letter from Respondent, dated July 14,
2015 that included a copy of a revised Check Register for
Respondent's Trust Account ("Second Check
Register") and a revised Client Ledger Card for M.
Brice. Bar Counsel again requested that Respondent admit that
he prepared the Second Check Register and the revised Client
Ledger Card for Mr. Brice. Respondent again failed to respond
to the requests, thereby admitting them. The hearing judge
subsequently concluded that Respondent's Second Check
Register contained false or incorrect information, in
comparison to copies of actual checks and bank statements
received from Respondent's attorney trust account. See
Md. Rule 2-424(b).
Second Check Register, Respondent represented that he issued
Check No. 0055 dated December 24, 2014 for $500.00 to medical
provider MHC on behalf of M. Brice. A copy of the check
revealed that it was made payable to Respondent. The Second
Check Register also represented that Respondent wrote a check
on December 7, 2014, to USAA on behalf of B. Jackson for $1,
050.00. The bank records contained a copy of a check, which
showed that Respondent issued the check again to Will Mcines.
The hearing judge also stated that Respondent's Client
Ledger Card for B. Jackson revealed that Respondent claimed a
fee of $10, 000.00, but Respondent's Disbursement Sheet,
claimed that his fee in the matter was $12, 870.00.
about July 31, 2015, Bar Counsel issued subpoenas to M&T
Bank and Respondent, seeking complete records of
Respondent's attorney trust account for the period
between January 2013 and July 31, 2015. Bar Counsel analyzed
the records, which revealed discrepancies and
misrepresentations by Respondent concerning the amounts of
various checks and the identities of various payees in both
Check Registers and Client Ledgers. As a result, on July 22,
2015, Bar Counsel directed Respondent to provide his complete
files for B. Jackson, M. Brice, S. Jones, B. Jones, and L.
Jones. Respondent complied on August 15, 2015.
August 15, 2015, Client Ledger Cards and Settlement
Statements for the above referenced clients contained
different information regarding payees and check amounts when
compared against Respondent's May 6, 2015 disclosure.
Entries on the Client Ledger Cards and Settlement Statements
were also inconsistent with the attorney trust account
records received from M&T Bank. For example, S. Jones
received a settlement check from GEICO Insurance Co. in the
amount of $6, 500.00, but the Client Ledger Card and
Settlement Statement provided by Respondent reflected the
following disbursements: (1) $2, 000.00 to Respondent; (2)
$1, 362.00 to MHC; and (3) $3, 138.00 to S. Jones. However,
the bank records from Respondent's trust account
reflected the following: (1) Check No. 1031 to S. Jones for
$3, 138.00; (2) Check No. 1026 to Will Mcines for $1, 050.00;
(3) Check No. 1039 to Respondent for $1, 000.00; and (4)
Check No. 1040 to Respondent for $600.00, totaling $5,
788.00. The bank records did not reflect any payment to
either MHC for $1, 362.00 on behalf of S. Jones.
January 8, 2016, Bar Counsel received a fax from Respondent
dated January 1, 2006. The hearing judge noted that the 2006
date listed was likely an error. Nonetheless, the fax
consisted of a cover sheet with a handwritten note from
Respondent and a three-page document titled "Check
Register for Attorney Trust Account" ("Third Check
Register"). Bar Counsel again sought an admission from
Respondent that he had prepared and reviewed the Third Check
Register for accuracy, but Respondent again failed to
respond. As such, the hearing judge treated those facts as
conclusively admitted. See Md. Rule 2-424(b). In the Third
Check Register, Respondent indicated that he wrote Check No.
55, dated November 19, 2014, for $7, 850.60, on behalf of B.
Jackson to Medical Providers for services provided to B.
Jackson. The actual copy of Check No. 55, dated November 19,
2014 was in fact made payable to Respondent, for a total
amount of $7, 850.60.
Client Ledger Card for B. Jackson reflected that
Respondent's fee for representation was $10, 000.00 and
that the client had outstanding medical bills for $7, 503.60.
The Disbursement Sheet for B. Jackson reflected, however,
that the fee for representation was $12, 870.00. The
Disbursement Sheet also reflected that B. Jackson's
medical expenses totaled $8, 464.00. The Third Check Register
further showed that on December 7, 2014, Respondent wrote a
check with an unknown number. The check purported to be on
behalf of "B. Jack/Jones to M. Moody for fees ($500.00)/
S. Jones ($550.00) to (W.E.) $1, 050.00."
Respondent's bank records however do not reflect a check
dated December 7, 2014 paid to Respondent. The Third Check
Register also contained an inaccurate entry concerning Check
The Hearing Judge's Conclusions of Law
on the above findings of fact, the hearing judge found, by
clear and convincing evidence, that Respondent violated the
following provisions of MLRPC: 1.15 (Safekeeping Property),
8.1 (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), 8.4
(Professional Misconduct). The hearing judge also determined
that Respondent violated Maryland Rules 16-606.1 (Attorney
Account Record-Keeping), 16-607 (Commingling Funds), and
16-609 (Prohibited Transactions).