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Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Ucheomumu

Court of Appeals of Maryland

November 16, 2018

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
ANDREW NDUBISI UCHEOMUMU

          Argued: October 4, 2018

          Barbera, C.J., Greene [*] Adkins McDonald Watts Hotten Getty, JJ.

          OPINION

          Watts, J.

         This attorney discipline proceeding involves a lawyer who, among other misconduct, caused an appeal in his client's case to be dismissed and lied to his client, Bar Counsel, and the Court of Special Appeals in an attempt to deflect the blame for the appeal's dismissal.

         Shannan Martin retained Andrew Ndubisi Ucheomumu, Respondent, a member of the Bar of Maryland, to represent her in an appeal. For an appeal to proceed, transcripts of relevant proceedings in the trial court need to be ordered by a certain deadline. In this case, after the deadline passed, Ucheomumu requested from Martin money to cover the cost of obtaining transcripts, and she paid him $3, 000. Ucheomumu, however, never ordered the transcripts or advised Martin to do so. The Court of Special Appeals issued an order directing Martin to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed for failure to file the transcripts. Ucheomumu filed a motion for extension of time to file the transcripts in which he falsely stated that one of the reasons why there had been a delay in filing the transcripts was that Martin's previous counsel had not provided him with them.

         Martin terminated Ucheomumu's representation. Although Ucheomumu had not earned the total of $6, 200 that Martin had paid him, he did not refund the $6, 200. Additionally, after the Court of Special Appeals denied the motion for extension of time and dismissed the appeal, Ucheomumu falsely advised Martin that she was responsible for the appeal's dismissal. Martin filed a complaint against Ucheomumu with Bar Counsel. In his response to Martin's complaint, Ucheomumu falsely stated that he had advised Martin to order the transcripts, that she had never paid him so that he could order the transcripts, and that the Court of Special Appeals had dismissed the appeal because Martin had failed to order the transcripts.

         On November 18, 2016, on behalf of the Attorney Grievance Commission, Petitioner, Bar Counsel filed in this Court a "Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action" against Ucheomumu, charging him with violating Maryland Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct ("MLRPC")[1] 1.1 (Competence), 1.2(a) (Allocation of Authority Between Client and Lawyer), 1.3 (Diligence), 1.4 (Communication), 1.5(a) (Reasonable Fees), 1.5(b) (Communication of Fees), 1.8(a), 1.8(h) (Conflict of Interest; Current Clients; Specific Rules), 1.15(a), 1.15(b), 1.15(c) (Safekeeping Property), 1.16(d) (Terminating Representation), 3.3(a)(1) (Candor Toward the Tribunal), 8.1(a) (Disciplinary Matters), 8.4(c) (Dishonesty, Fraud, Deceit, or Misrepresentation), 8.4(d) (Conduct That Is Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice), and 8.4(a) (Violating or Attempting to Violate the MLRPC), and current Maryland Rule 19-408 (Commingling of Funds).[2]

         On November 22, 2016, this Court designated the Honorable David A. Boynton of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County to hear this attorney discipline proceeding. On March 29, 2017, Ucheomumu filed in this Court a "Motion for Change of Venue and to Amend Order Designating Judg[e.]" On March 31, 2017, this Court issued an Order granting the Motion for Change of Venue. On April 12, 2017, this Court designated the Honorable Tiffany H. Anderson ("the hearing judge") of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County to hear this attorney discipline proceeding.

         On December 22, 2017, Ucheomumu filed in this Court a "Motion to Dismiss Improperly-Filed and Unauthorized Charges[] and Request for Oral Argument[, ]" a brief in support thereof, and a Motion to Seal as to one of the exhibits that he attached to the brief. On December 28, 2017, Ucheomumu filed in this Court an "Emergency Motion to Stay Trial Court Proceedings[, ]" a "Motion for Issuance of Additional Briefing Schedule as to Questions of Law Capable of Repetition, but Consistently Evading Review, or in the Alternative, Motion for Appropriate Reli[e]f[, ]" and a brief in support of the motions. On January 2, 2018, this Court issued an Order granting the Motion to Seal and denying the Motion to Dismiss and the Motion for Issuance.

         On January 10, 16, and 17, 2018, the hearing judge conducted a hearing.[3] On April 25, 2018, the hearing judge filed in this Court an opinion including findings of fact and conclusions of law, concluding that Ucheomumu had violated MLRPC 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15(a), 1.15(c), 1.16, 3.3, 8.1, 8.4(c), 8.4(d), and 8.4(a), and had attempted to violate MLRPC 1.8(h)(1) and 1.8(h)(2) in violation of MLRPC 8.4(a).[4]

         On July 16, 2018, Ucheomumu filed in this Court a "Motion to Compel Production of Documents [Bar Counsel] Improperly[ ]Withheld During the Trial Court Proceedings; and Exceptions to Trial Court Rulings Regarding Such Documents" and a "Motion to Unseal Records and Deposition and Vacate Non-Dissemination Order[.]" On August 23, 2018, this Court issued an Order denying the Motion to Compel and the Motion to Unseal. On September 7, 2018, Ucheomumu filed in this Court motions for reconsideration of this Court's denial of the Motion to Compel and the Motion to Unseal. On the same date, this Court issued an Order denying the motions for reconsideration.

         On October 4, 2018, we heard oral argument. For the below reasons, we disbar Ucheomumu.

         BACKGROUND

         The hearing judge found the following facts, which we summarize.

         On June 16, 2009, this Court admitted Ucheomumu to the Bar of Maryland. At all relevant times, Ucheomumu was a solo practitioner with a virtual office in Montgomery County.

         On July 31, 2014, in a child custody case, the Circuit Court for Prince George's County issued an order that was unfavorable to Martin. On November 3, 2014, Ucheomumu and Martin signed an "Attorney Engagement Agreement," which stated as follows. Martin had "filed a pro se appeal and need[ed] the legal services of [Ucheomumu's firm] to handle the Appeal Brief and oral argument[.]" Martin would pay Ucheomumu a flat fee of $10, 500, and would also pay the filing fees and the cost of obtaining transcripts. Ucheomumu's firm would "deposit any and all" payments "in [its] general operating account, and not in a trust account." If, "[a]fter starting the work, "

         Ucheomumu's firm withdrew from the representation "due to any conflict," Martin would receive a refund on a "pro[ ]rata basis[, ] or" her payments would be applied to "outstanding legal bills." The Attorney Engagement Agreement did not specify an hourly rate, or explain how the amount of any "outstanding legal bills[, ]" or the amount of any refund on "a pro[ ]rata basis[, ]" would be calculated. Ucheomumu did not advise Martin to seek independent counsel to review the Attorney Engagement Agreement's statement that he would not deposit unearned funds into an attorney trust account.

         After Martin retained Ucheomumu to represent her in the appeal, she requested from him legal advice that pertained to the child custody case, but that was outside the scope of his representation of her in the appeal. Specifically, Martin requested from Ucheomumu legal advice regarding visitation with her children. Ucheomumu reviewed e-mails and other documents that pertained to the child custody case, and, on Martin's behalf, made phone calls and engaged in negotiation with opposing counsel regarding visitation with her children. The Attorney Engagement Agreement did not mention the costs of these legal services. There was no evidence that Ucheomumu and Martin entered into a separate or amended retainer agreement that addressed the costs of these legal services. Ucheomumu did not advise Martin that he applied at least some of her payments for the appeal toward the costs of these legal services.

         On November 3, 2014, Martin paid Ucheomumu $3, 000, which he deposited into his attorney trust account; he drafted a Notice of Appeal and advised Martin to file it in the circuit court; and she did so. On November 4, 2014, Ucheomumu e-mailed Martin's previous counsel in an attempt to obtain her case file. Martin's previous counsel never provided any documents to Ucheomumu. On November 7, 2014, Ucheomumu filed a Civil Appeal Information Report on Martin's behalf, and withdrew $1, 000 from his attorney trust account. On November 19, 2014, Martin paid Ucheomumu $200, which he did not deposit into his attorney trust account.

         On November 20, 2014, the Court of Special Appeals issued an order to proceed, stating that there would be no prehearing conference, and that the appeal would be governed by Maryland Rule 8-207(a), which provides for expedited appeals in child custody and visitation cases. See Md. R. 8-207(a)(1)(B). In November 2014, Maryland Rule 8-411(b)(1) stated that, generally, "[t]he appellant shall order the transcript within ten days . . . after [] the date of an order . . . that the appeal proceed without a prehearing conference, . . . unless a different time is fixed by that order[.]" (Paragraph break omitted). Here, ten days after the date of the order to proceed was November 30, 2014, which was a Sunday; thus, the transcripts of the relevant proceedings in the circuit court needed to be ordered by December 1, 2014, the next business day.[5] See Md. R. 1-203(a)(1). Ucheomumu never ordered the transcripts, never advised Martin to do so, and never filed a timely motion for extension of time to file the transcripts.

         On December 2, 2014, Ucheomumu withdrew $2, 000 from his attorney trust account. On December 8, 2014, a week after the date on which the transcripts were to be ordered, Ucheomumu sent a text message to Martin, requesting a payment for the purpose of "order[ing] the transcript[s] ASAP without any further delay." This was the only occasion on which Ucheomumu requested a payment to cover the cost of obtaining transcripts. Ucheomumu did not inform Martin that he had missed the December 1, 2014 deadline for ordering the transcripts. On December 10, 2014, for the purpose of covering the cost of obtaining the transcripts, Martin paid Ucheomumu $3, 000, which he did not deposit into his attorney trust account. Ucheomumu never earned $6, 200 in attorney's fees that Martin had paid him, as he failed to take any action to advance the appeal, he never ordered the transcripts that were necessary to the appeal, and his legal services pertaining to visitation with Martin's children were not a significant undertaking. Additionally, Ucheomumu never drafted a brief on Martin's behalf.

         At some point, Ucheomumu contacted a transcription company. On January 15, 2015, the transcription company responded to Ucheomumu, confirming the existence of transcripts of two days of a trial. The hearing judge did not find that Ucheomumu took any action in response.

         On February 2, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals issued an order directing Martin to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed for failure to file the transcripts. On February 24, 2015, Ucheomumu e-mailed Martin, stating that he lacked the transcripts. Ucheomumu did not inform Martin of the show cause order, or advise her that the Court of Special Appeals would dismiss the appeal for failure to file the transcripts.

         On February 27, 2015, in the Court of Special Appeals, Ucheomumu filed an "Appellant[']s Motion for Extension of Time to Order Transcript[s] and File Appellant's Brief." In the Motion for Extension, Ucheomumu requested a two-month extension of the deadline for filing Martin's brief, and represented that there had been a delay in ordering the transcripts because: (1) the circuit court had been closed for multiple days; (2) he was uncertain of how long the trial had been due to confusing information on the docket; and (3) he had not received Martin's case file from her previous counsel, who, he believed, had copies of the transcripts. Ucheomumu knowingly made a false statement by stating that there had been a delay in ordering the transcripts because he had not received Martin's case file from her previous counsel. By requesting from Martin on December 8, 2014 a payment for the cost of obtaining transcripts, Ucheomumu indicated that, as of that date, he was no longer waiting for Martin's previous counsel to provide the transcripts, and instead planned to use a payment from Martin to order the transcripts himself. Ucheomumu "misled [] the Court of Special Appeals . . . in an attempt to explain his failure to order the transcripts."

         On March 10, 2015, Martin requested a copy of the Motion for Extension, but she did not hear back from Ucheomumu. On March 11, 2015, Martin again requested a copy of the Motion for Extension, and again did not hear back from Ucheomumu. Subsequently, Martin requested that Ucheomumu provide copies of all of the documents that he had drafted on her behalf. Ucheomumu never did so.

         On March 18, 2015, Martin terminated Ucheomumu's representation, sought a refund, and requested an accounting of all of the legal services that he had performed for her. At some point, Martin hired new counsel to represent her in the appeal. On March 20, 2015, Ucheomumu provided Martin with an invoice that indicated that she owed him $10, 944.50 based on an hourly rate of $295. This was the first occasion on which Ucheomumu indicated that he would charge Martin an hourly rate. On the same date, Ucheomumu offered to refund Martin $1, 200, but did not explain how he calculated that amount. Martin declined Ucheomumu's offer and requested that the two of them discuss the payments. Ucheomumu e-mailed Martin and her new counsel, again offering to refund Martin $1, 200-on the condition that she would sign a release that was attached to the email, and that would preclude her from suing him. Ucheomumu did not advise Martin to seek independent counsel to review the release. Martin declined Ucheomumu's second offer.

         On March 25, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals issued an order denying the Motion for Extension and dismissing the appeal. Ucheomumu's inaction caused the appeal's dismissal. On March 30, 2015, Ucheomumu e-mailed the order and the Attorney Engagement Agreement to Martin and stated:

Our agreement specifically specified that you are responsible for paying the transcripts; see attached. I told you many times to deposit the money for the transcript[s] and you told me that your grand[]father was going to loan you money, but that did not materialize. I specifically did not want to let the Court of Special Appeals know that you have not paid for the transcripts because it is my duty to protect you.

(Cleaned up).

         On April 1, 2015, in the Court of Special Appeals, Martin's new counsel filed a Motion to Reinstate. On April 6, 2015, in the Court of Special Appeals, Martin's new counsel filed transcripts of certain circuit court proceedings. On April 14, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals denied the Motion to Reinstate. Martin's new counsel then filed in this Court a petition for a writ of certiorari, which this Court denied.

         On April 13, 2015, Martin filed a complaint against Ucheomumu with Bar Counsel. On June 10, 2015, Ucheomumu provided to Bar Counsel a response to Martin's complaint in which he falsely stated that he had advised Martin to order the transcripts, that she had never paid him so that he could order the transcripts, and that the Court of Special Appeals had dismissed the appeal because Martin had failed to order the transcripts.

         According to the hearing judge, Ucheomumu's misconduct was aggravated by prior attorney discipline, a dishonest or selfish motive, a pattern of misconduct, multiple violations of the MLRPC, and false statements during this attorney discipline proceeding. Ucheomumu's misconduct was mitigated by his "provision of some legal services [that were] related to" visitation with Martin's children.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In an attorney discipline proceeding, this Court reviews for clear error a hearing judge's findings of fact, and reviews without deference a hearing judge's conclusions of law. See Md. R. 19-741(b)(2)(B) ("The Court [of Appeals] shall give due regard to the opportunity of the hearing judge to assess the credibility of witnesses."); Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Slate, 457 Md. 610, 626, 180 A.3d 134, 144 (2018) ("This Court reviews for clear error a hearing judge's findings of fact." (Cleaned up)); Md. R. 19-741(b)(1) ("The Court of Appeals shall review de novo the [hearing] judge's conclusions of law."). This Court determines whether clear and convincing evidence establishes that a lawyer violated an MLRPC. See Md. R. 19-727(c) ("Bar Counsel has the burden of proving the averments of the [P]etition [for Disciplinary or Remedial Action] by clear and convincing evidence.").

         DISCUSSION

         (A) Ucheomumu's Requests for Dismissal or Remand

         In his "Exceptions to the Hearing Judge's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Recommendation for Disposition[, ]" Ucheomumu requests that we dismiss this attorney discipline proceeding "due to [Bar Counsel]'s discovery misconduct as set forth in the Motion to Compel[.]" In his Exceptions, Ucheomumu repeats multiple contentions that he made in the Motion to Compel, as well as the Motion to Unseal and the Motion to Dismiss. Specifically, in both his Exceptions and the Motion to Compel, Ucheomumu argued that Bar Counsel improperly failed to answer interrogatories under oath, Bar Counsel improperly withheld certain documents, and those documents were similar to a memorandum that this Court stated was not attorney work product in Matter of White, 458 Md. 60, 92, 181 A.3d 750, 768 (2018). In both his Exceptions and the Motion to Unseal, Ucheomumu argued that the hearing judge improperly sealed the transcript of his deposition of the Attorney Grievance Commission's Executive Secretary. And, in both his Exceptions and the Motion to Dismiss, Ucheomumu argued that the Peer Review Panel was improperly comprised of individuals from Montgomery County rather than individuals from Prince George's County.

         This Court denied the Motion to Compel, the Motion to Unseal, the Motion to Dismiss, and the motions for reconsideration of this Court's denials of the Motion to Compel and the Motion to Unseal. Ucheomumu's exceptions, which raise the same arguments that were made in the Motions to Compel, Unseal, and Dismiss, are overruled. We decline to yet again consider arguments of which we have already disposed.

          In his Exceptions, Ucheomumu contends that the hearing judge erred in limiting his deposition of the Attorney Grievance Commission's Executive Secretary by denying him the opportunity to ask about "fundamental topics[, ] such as the factual basis for its contentions in the Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action, . . . or [Bar Counsel's] compliance with its discovery obligations." Ucheomumu also argues that the hearing judge made several errors at the hearing, such as "[i]mproperly [h]urr[ying him] along[, ]" not taking judicial notice of certain documents, and denying him the "opportunity to introduce evidence inuring to unauthorized charges[.]" Ucheomumu seeks dismissal of this attorney discipline proceeding on these grounds. Upon a careful review of the record, we discern no procedural error or abuse of discretion on the hearing judge's part, and we decline to dismiss this attorney discipline proceeding.

         In his Exceptions, Ucheomumu also requests that we remand this attorney discipline proceeding so that the hearing judge "can consider [] newly-discovered evidence"- namely, a purported November 3, 2014 e-mail in which Ucheomumu stated to Martin: "We need to . . . order the transcript[s] . . . as quickly as possible"; purported records of telephone calls and text messages between Ucheomumu and Martin from October 2014 to March 2015; and the testimony of "a witness who [allegedly] has knowledge of attempted settlement negotiations in the" child custody case. None of this proffered evidence causes us to conclude that the hearing judge's findings of fact are clearly erroneous. In the purported November 3, 2014 e-mail, Ucheomumu did not advise Martin to order the transcripts, nor did Ucheomumu indicate that Martin was responsible for ordering the transcripts; significantly, in a December 8, 2014 text message, he stated to Martin: "I need to order the transcript[s] ASAP without any further delay." Ucheomumu does not draw our attention to the content of any of the purported telephonic conversations and text messages, or proffer that any of them contradict the hearing judge's findings that Ucheomumu failed to inform Martin of the December 1, 2014 deadline for ordering the transcripts, and failed to inform Martin that he had missed the deadline. Testimony regarding settlement negotiations in the child custody case would be of no consequence because Bar Counsel did not charge Ucheomumu with any misconduct that arose out of the alleged settlement negotiations. We decline Ucheomumu's request to remand the attorney discipline proceeding.

         (B) Findings of Fact

         Bar Counsel does not except to any of the hearing judge's findings of fact. Ucheomumu raises fifteen exceptions to the hearing judge's findings of fact. We overrule all but one of the exceptions.

         First, Ucheomumu excepts to the hearing judge's finding that, on December 8, 2014, he requested from Martin money to cover the cost of obtaining transcripts. The hearing judge admitted into evidence a series of text messages between Ucheomumu and Martin, including a December 8, 2014 text message in which he stated: "Shannan, how is your funding coming? I need to order the transcript[s] ASAP without any further delay." Ucheomumu contends that, in his text message, he did not expressly ask Martin for money. Ucheomumu's contention is without merit. Given that Ucheomumu asked Martin how her "funding [was] coming[, ]" and, in the next sentence, informed her that he "need[ed] to order the transcript[s, ]" the hearing judge did not clearly err in determining that the text message was a request for money to cover the cost of obtaining transcripts.

         Second, Ucheomumu excepts to the hearing judge's finding that the purpose of Martin's $3, 000 payment on December 10, 2014 was to cover the cost of obtaining the transcripts. Contrary to Ucheomumu's position, the evidence supports the hearing judge's finding. As mentioned previously, on December 8, 2014, Ucheomumu sent Martin a text message, requesting money to cover the cost of obtaining transcripts. On the same day, Martin replied, stating: "I was just informed that it should be wired to my account within 72 hours." On December 10, 2014, Martin paid Ucheomumu $3, 000. The timing of Martin's payment-just two days after the date on which Ucheomumu requested from her money to cover the cost of obtaining transcripts, and that Martin stated that she would receive money within 72 hours-supports the hearing judge's finding that the purpose of the payment was to cover the cost of obtaining the transcripts.

         Third, Ucheomumu excepts to the hearing judge's finding that, after Martin terminated his representation, he billed her for legal services that were outside the scope of his representation of her in the appeal. Ucheomumu argues that the $10, 500 flat fee covered all of the legal services that he provided to Martin, including services related to visitation with her children; that he calculated the $10, 944.50 balance due in the invoice in response to her request for an accounting; and that he did not attempt to collect the balance due. Ucheomumu's logic is faulty. The Attorney Engagement Agreement stated that Ucheomumu would represent Martin in the appeal for a flat fee of $10, 500, and did not contemplate that he would provide any other legal services to her. Yet, after Martin terminated Ucheomumu's representation, he provided her with an invoice with a balance due of $10, 944.50. Given that Ucheomumu could not have provided Martin with more than $10, 500's worth of legal services in the appeal, as he never ordered transcripts of the circuit court proceedings, filed briefs, or appeared at any oral argument, he necessarily billed her $10, 944.50 for legal services that were not related to his representation of her in the appeal, or services that he did not perform at all.

         Fourth and fifth, Ucheomumu excepts to the hearing judge's findings that he never earned the $6, 200 that Martin had paid him, that he failed to deposit and maintain the funds in an attorney trust account until earned, and that he failed to take any action to advance the appeal. The evidence provides ample support for the hearing judge's findings. Martin retained Ucheomumu to represent her in the appeal, draft and file a brief on her behalf, and participate in oral argument. Ucheomumu never drafted a brief on Martin's behalf, and there was no oral argument because the Court of Special Appeals dismissed the appeal for failure to file the transcripts of proceedings in the circuit court. The transcripts were never filed because Ucheomumu never ordered them and never advised Martin to do so. Ucheomumu was responsible for the appeal's dismissal, and he did not earn $6, 200 for work that he failed to perform. Ucheomumu clearly did not earn the $6, 200 by performing such perfunctory tasks as e-mailing Martin's previous counsel, drafting a notice of appeal, filing a Civil Appeal Information Report, and filing an untimely Motion for Extension. Nor did Ucheomumu earn the $6, 200 by performing legal services that were related to visitation with Martin's children, as the hearing judge found, and this work was outside the scope of Ucheomumu's representation in the appeal. Specifically, Ucheomumu reviewed e-mails and other documents that pertained to the child custody case, and, on Martin's behalf, made phone calls and engaged in negotiation regarding visitation with her children. The hearing judge found that Ucheomumu's legal services pertaining to visitation with Martin's children were not a significant undertaking. The hearing judge also found that, although Ucheomumu deposited into an attorney trust account the initial $3, 000 that Martin had paid him, he withdrew those funds from the attorney trust account, and he did not deposit into an attorney trust account the additional $3, 200 that Martin paid him. The hearing judge did not clearly err in finding that Ucheomumu never earned the $6, 200, and that he failed to deposit and maintain the funds in an attorney trust account until earned.

         Sixth, Ucheomumu excepts to the hearing judge's finding that he did not advise Martin to seek independent counsel to review the Attorney Engagement Agreement's statement that he would not deposit unearned funds into an attorney trust account. Ucheomumu asserts that there is no evidence that he did not provide such advice. Ucheomumu's assertion is a red herring. MLRPC 1.15(c) required Ucheomumu to obtain Martin's "informed consent, confirmed in writing, to" his practice of not depositing unearned funds into an attorney trust account. Comment 6 to MLRPC 1.0 addresses informed consent, in pertinent part, as follows: "In some circumstances[, ] it may be appropriate for a lawyer to advise a client . . . to seek the advice of another lawyer." Ucheomumu failed to put into writing advice of Martin's right to seek independent counsel, or a statement that he had orally provided such advice. And Ucheomumu simply makes a bald allegation that the hearing judge clearly erred with respect to the finding.

         Seventh, although Ucheomumu does not challenge the hearing judge's finding that he never ordered the transcripts or advised Martin to do so, he contends that he promptly attempted to obtain the transcripts from her previous counsel. Ucheomumu's contention does not undermine the hearing judge's finding. On November 4, 2014, in an attempt to obtain Martin's case file, Ucheomumu e-mailed her previous counsel, who, he believed, had copies of the transcripts. Regardless of whether Ucheomumu's belief was accurate, Martin's previous counsel never provided the transcripts. As of November 20, 2014, when the Court of Special Appeals issued an order to proceed-which triggered a ten-day deadline for ordering the transcripts, see Md. R. 8-411(b)(1)-it was incumbent on Ucheomumu to promptly order the transcripts.

         Eighth, Ucheomumu excepts to the hearing judge's finding that his inaction caused the appeal's dismissal. Ucheomumu argues that he could not have been responsible for the appeal's dismissal, as the appeal was "a nullity" because Martin prematurely filed a notice of appeal while a motion to alter or amend the judgment was pending. Ucheomumu is wrong. The hearing judge admitted into evidence the child custody case's docket entries. According to a docket entry dated July 24, 2014, at a hearing, the circuit court awarded the opposing party primary physical and sole legal custody of Martin's children. According to a docket entry dated September 22, 2014, Martin filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment. And, according to a docket entry dated October 3, 2014, the circuit court issued an order in which it again awarded the opposing party primary physical and sole legal custody of Martin's children. The order was a final judgment, regardless of whether the circuit court expressly denied the motion to alter or amend. Indeed, another docket entry dated October 3, 2014 stated that the child custody case was closed. Martin needed to file a notice of appeal within thirty days of the ruling disposing of the motion to alter or amend. See Md. 8-202(c). The date ...


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