Argument: April 10, 2018
Circuit Court for Montgomery County Case No. 433731
Barbera, C.J. Greene Adkins McDonald Watts Hotten Getty, JJ.
attorney disciplinary matter concerns Respondent Benjamin N.
Ndi, an attorney licensed in New York, but not in Maryland,
who committed various violations of the rules of professional
conduct, as well as of a related rule concerning the use of
attorney trust accounts, while providing immigration and
other legal services in Maryland. Mr. Ndi did not cooperate
fully with Bar Counsel's investigation into his
activities in Maryland, failed to respond to discovery
requests in this proceeding, and did not appear at the
evidentiary hearing before the hearing judge or at oral
argument before this Court. Following oral argument, we
disbarred Mr. Ndi and ordered the Clerk of this Court to
place his name on the list of attorneys who are excluded from
the practice of law in Maryland.We now explain the
reasons why we took that action.
8, 2017, the Attorney Grievance Commission
("Commission"), through Bar Counsel, filed with
this Court a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action
against Mr. Ndi. The Commission charged him with violating
Rules 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (diligence), 1.4 (communication),
1.5 (fees), 1.15 (safekeeping property), 1.16 (declining or
terminating representation), 5.5 (unauthorized practice of
law), 7.1 (communications concerning lawyer's services),
7.5 (firm names and letterheads), 8.1 (bar admission and
disciplinary matters), and 8.4 (misconduct) of the Maryland
Lawyers' Rules of Profession- al Conduct
("MLRPC"), as well as Maryland Rule 19-308.1 (bar
admission and disciplinary matters) and Maryland Rule
19-308.4 (misconduct) of the Maryland Attorneys' Rules of
Professional Conduct ("MARPC"). He was also
charged with violating former Maryland Rules 16-603 (duty to
maintain trust account) and 16-604 (trust account - required
to Maryland Rule 19-722, this Court designated Judge Joan E.
Ryon, of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, to conduct
a hearing and to provide findings of fact and recommended
conclusions of law. Mr. Ndi retained counsel, who filed an
answer on his behalf. The answer admitted some of the
allegations, denied others, and asserted a lack of
information or memory as to others. Mr. Ndi's counsel
subsequently filed a motion to withdraw his appearance, which
the hearing judge granted on December 7, 2017. No new counsel
entered an appearance, nor did Mr. Ndi appear on his own
did not respond to the written discovery requests of Bar
Counsel or appear for his deposition noticed by Bar Counsel.
As a result, Bar Counsel filed a motion for sanctions. Mr.
Ndi did not respond to that motion. The hearing judge granted
the motion, striking Mr. Ndi's answer and precluding him
from introducing any testimony or evidence at trial other
than testimony as to mitigation.
hearing proceeded as scheduled on January 8, 2018. Mr. Ndi
did not appear.
hearing judge issued findings of fact and recommended
conclusions of law on February 7, 2018. Neither party filed
exceptions. This Court heard oral argument on April 10, 2018.
Mr. Ndi did not appear.
summarize the hearing judge's findings of fact and the
exhibits submitted at the hearing as follows. As no
exceptions have been filed, we treat the findings of fact as
established. Maryland Rule 19-741(b)(2)(A).
Membership and Office Location
was admitted to the New York Bar in 2003. Mr. Ndi is not a
member of the Maryland Bar. During 2016 and 2017, he was in
"delinquent status" with respect to his New York
Bar membership for failure to pay fees associated with that
membership. During that time period, he maintained an office
for the practice of law in Montgomery County, Maryland.
of Martin Ndamchi Tamon
Ndamchi Tamon, a native and citizen of Cameroon, entered the
United States on September 9, 2005, on a tourist visa. On
September 6, 2006, Mr. Tamon filed a pro se
application for asylum with the United States Citizenship and
Immigration Services. Mr. Tamon's asylum application was
referred to the federal immigration court in Baltimore.
early February 2007, Mr. Tamon retained Mr. Ndi to represent
him in the immigration matter and paid him $2, 000 for that
purpose. In his notice of appearance and subsequent filings,
Mr. Ndi indicated a Takoma Park, Maryland, office address.
Mr. Ndi appeared with Mr. Tamon before an immigration judge
on February 7, 2007, at a master calendar hearing. Mr. Ndi
told the court that Mr. Tamon intended to pursue his asylum
application before the immigration court. The immigration
judge informed Mr. Ndi that the asylum application was not in
the proper format and ordered Mr. Ndi to re-file the
application in accordance with the immigration court's
guidelines by April 9, 2007.
failed to re-file Mr. Tamon's asylum application. On
April 23, 2007, the immigration judge deemed Mr. Tamon's
asylum application to be abandoned and issued an order that
allowed Mr. Tamon 30 days to leave the United States, after
which the order would become an order of removal. A final
order of removal would result in Mr. Tamon's arrest and
did not promptly inform Mr. Tamon of the immigration
court's order. Mr. Tamon learned of the order only when
he called Mr. Ndi's office in May 2007 to check on the
status of his case.
7, 2007, Mr. Ndi filed a motion with the immigration court to
re-open Mr. Tamon's case. In the motion, he asserted that
he was a solo practitioner and had been "overwhelmed
with work and inadvertently failed" to re-file the
asylum application. The motion incorrectly stated that Mr.
Tamon had been ordered removed in absentia - i.e.,
because he had failed to appear for his case - and was based
on case law regarding removals in absentia. As
indicated above, the removal order was the result of Mr.
Ndi's failure to re-file the asylum application in the
proper format. Attached to the motion was an asylum
application, but without the supporting documentation that
had accompanied Mr. Tamon's original pro se
22, 2007, the immigration court denied the motion to re-open
Mr. Tamon's case. On August 2, 2007, Mr. Ndi filed an
untimely motion to reconsider that denial, but failed to
specify any error of fact or law in the decision. Once again,
the stated basis of Mr. Ndi's motion was that he was a
solo practitioner who was overwhelmed with work. The next
day, the immigration court denied the motion to reconsider.
November 23, 2007, Mr. Tamon filed a pro se appeal
with the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA"). Mr.
Tamon explained that he had experienced difficulty obtaining
documents from Cameroon. However, the BIA denied his appeal
of Joseph Shonga
Shonga was also an immigration client of Mr. Ndi. On November
12, 2015, Mr. Shonga was in an automobile accident in
Baltimore and sustained injuries. On January 12, 2016, Mr.
Ndi visited Mr. Shonga at his home in Laurel, Maryland, and
offered to represent Mr. Shonga in seeking compensation for
those injuries. According to Mr. Shonga, they entered into a
written contingent fee agreement under which Mr. Ndi would
receive 31% of any recovery as his fee. Mr. Ndi did not
provide Mr. Shonga with a copy of the contingent fee
agreement. During the meeting, Mr. Ndi said that he would pay
all of Mr. Shonga's medical bills from the settlement and
then "see what is left." Mr. Shonga provided Mr.
Ndi with five bills related to his medical treatment.
April 29, 2016, Mr. Ndi called Mr. Shonga and asked him to
come to his office in Takoma Park. That same day, they met at
the office, which was known as the "Center for
Immigration Law." Mr. Ndi told Mr. Shonga that the
insurance company had offered to settle the case for $17, 000
or $18, 000. At Mr. Ndi's recommendation, Mr. Shonga
signed a settlement agreement.
Shonga also signed a "Settlement Statement" that
represented that the total distribution was $17, 000.
According to the Settlement Statement, Mr. Ndi disbursed $8,
000 to Mr. Shonga as the "Amount to Clients." He
withheld $5, 500 as the "Amount to Attorneys, "
which included: his fee of $5, 666.67, increased by
"Costs and Disbursements" of $900 ($100 for
"Consultation, "$300 for "Court fees, "
and $500 for "Paralegal Research"), and reduced by
a "Discount" of $1, 066.67. Mr. Ndi also withheld
$3, 500 from Mr. Shonga's total settlement for
"Reimbursement of Client Costs, " which included
$1, 000 for "Emergency Room Bill" and $2, 500 for
"Bill Maryland Health Care Clinic."
gave Mr. Shonga a check for $8, 000 written on an account of
the Center for Immigration Law, which contained the notation
"PI Settlement." The account was not an attorney
failed to promptly pay all of Mr. Shonga's medical bills.
Mr. Ndi made the following disbursements to Mr. Shonga's
1) On or about June 21, 2016, a check to Emergency Medicine
in the amount of $124.86;
2) On or about June 21, 2016, a check to Neurological
Medicine PA in the amount of $248.34;
3) In or about October 2016, a payment to Progressive MRI LLC
in the amount of $250.00;
4) On or about November 20, 2016, a payment to Doctor's
Community Hospital in the amount of $114.21; and
5) On or about March 2017, a payment to Carefirst BlueCross
BlueShield in the amount of $377.80.
did not disburse any amount in connection with "Maryland
Health Care Clinic."
months after he signed the settlement statement, Mr. Shonga
continued to receive bills from health care providers.
However, Mr. Shonga was unable to reach Mr. Ndi to obtain
information about the status of payments to health care
October 23, 2017, Maryland Healthcare Clinics filed a lawsuit
against Mr. Shonga for failure to pay its bill.
Tamon filed a complaint concerning Mr. Ndi with Bar Counsel
on March 24, 2016. On April 27, 2016, Bar Counsel wrote to
Mr. Ndi at the Takoma Park, Maryland, address provided by Mr.
Tamon and requested a response to the complaint within 15
days. Mr. Ndi failed to respond to that letter, as well as to
a follow-up letter from Bar Counsel the next month.
7, 2016, Bar Counsel sent copies of its previous
correspondence and Mr. Tamon's complaint to Mr. Ndi at
his Maryland addresses in Lanham and Burtonsville and asked
Mr. Ndi for information concerning his ...