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Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Conwell

Court of Appeals of Maryland

January 23, 2019

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
SCOTT A. CONWELL

          Argued: October 10, 2018

          Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County Case No. C-02-CV-17-002173

          Barbera, C.J., Greene, [*] Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Battaglia, Lynne, A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          BATTAGLIA, J.

         Scott A. Conwell ("Conwell"), Respondent, was admitted to the Bar of this Court on December 14, 1999. On July 24, 2017, the Attorney Grievance Commission ("Petitioner" or "Bar Counsel"), acting pursuant to Maryland Rule 19-721, [1] filed a Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action against Conwell related to his representation of Julie D. Brewington, Gino A. DeSerio, and Dennis Olsen. The Petition alleged that Conwell violated the following Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct ("Rule"): 1.1 (Competence), [2] 1.2 (Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority between Client and Lawyer), [3] 1.3 (Diligence), [4] 1.4 (Communication), [5] 1.5 (Fees), [6] 1.16 (Declining or Terminating Representation), [7] 3.1 (Meritorious Claims and Contentions), [8] 3.3 (Candor toward Tribunal), [9] 3.4 (Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel), [10] 8.1 (Bar Admission and Disciplinary Matters), [11] and 8.4 (Misconduct).[12]

         In an Order dated July 25, 2017, we referred the matter to Judge Donna M. Schaeffer of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County for a hearing, pursuant to Maryland Rule 19-727.[13] Respondent was served with the Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action, our Order, and the Writ of Summons on August 28, 2017, and he filed a timely response.

         Judge Schaeffer held hearings on the matter on March 5 and 6, 2018. During the hearings, Bar Counsel amended the Petition and withdrew her allegations of violations of Rules 3.3 and 8.1 with regard to Conwell's representation of Scott Olsen.

         Upon consideration of the Petition, Respondent's Answer, exhibits, witness testimony and arguments of counsel, Judge Schaeffer issued Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. With respect to his representation of Julie Brewington, Judge Schaeffer concluded that Conwell violated Rules 1.3, 1.4, and 8.4(a) and (d), but not Rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, and 1.16. With respect to his representation of Gino DeSerio, Judge Schaeffer concluded that Conwell violated Rules 1.1, 1.5, 3.3(a)(1), (a)(2), and (a)(4), and 8.4(a) and (d), but not Rule 1.4. With respect to his representation of Dennis Olsen, Judge Schaeffer concluded that Conwell violated Rules 3.1, 3.4(c), and 8.4(a), (c), and (d).

         This Court "has original and complete jurisdiction over attorney discipline proceedings in Maryland." Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Mixter, 441 Md. 416, 477, 109 A.3d 1, 38 (2015) (quoting Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. O'Leary, 433 Md. 2, 28, 69 A.3d 1121, 1136 (2013)). Upon review, we "accept the hearing judge's findings of fact as prima facie correct unless shown to be clearly erroneous." Id. (quoting Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Fader, 431 Md. 395, 426, 66 A.3d 18, 36 (2013) (additional citation omitted)). This level of deference is warranted because the hearing judge is better positioned than us "to assess the demeanor-based credibility of the witnesses." Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Framm, 449 Md. 620, 643, 144 A.3d 827, 841 (2016) (quoting Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Tanko, 427 Md. 15, 27, 45 A.3d 281, 288 (2012)). The hearing judge, therefore, "is permitted to 'pick and choose which evidence to rely upon' from a conflicting array when determining findings of fact." Id. (alteration omitted) (quoting Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Guida, 391 Md. 33, 50, 891 A.2d 1085, 1095 (2006)).

         Neither party has filed exceptions to the hearing judge's factual findings; thus, we deem those factual findings established by clear and convincing evidence. Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Jacobs, 459 Md. 291, 309, 185 A.3d 132, 143 (2018) (citation omitted). As to the hearing judge's conclusions of law, when violations have been sustained and exceptions have been filed, our consideration is de novo. Maryland Rule 19-741(b)(1).[14]

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Neither Bar Counsel nor Conwell filed exceptions to the hearing judge's factual findings. Accordingly, we treat those findings as established, Maryland Rule 19-741(b)(2)(A), [15] and paraphrase them for brevity.

         Representation of Julie Brewington

         Sometime in the spring of 2013, Julie Brewington filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against her former employer. In the summer of 2014, Ms. Brewington retained Conwell to represent her in the EEOC matter, because he represented that he practiced employment law. Around August 7, 2014, Ms. Brewington signed a retainer agreement with Conwell and gave him a check for $2, 500.00. The retainer agreement provided that Conwell would file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights ("Maryland Commission") and represent her before that agency, in addition to the EEOC.

         The scope of Conwell's employment, as set forth in the findings of fact, derived from the retainer agreement and described by Ms. Brewington at the hearing was that, Conwell

"[would] provide legal advice and representation" in relation to Ms. Brewington's employment dispute and rights with [employer]. Respondent's retainer agreement with Ms. Brewington provided for representation in relation to an anticipated Maryland Commission on Civil Rights [] action he proposed filing because, as Respondent testified, "I would not want to rely on a client's pro se filing . . . I would come in and ordinarily file a new complaint. I normally file that with the [Maryland Commission]." The retainer agreement . . . indicated "[t]his is a first stage fixed fee representation agreement."

         At the time Conwell was retained, Ms. Brewington did not know the status of her prior pro se filing with the EEOC. Describing the EEOC as a "black hole," Ms. Brewington communicated to Conwell that "a year and a half" had elapsed since her filing and that she was concerned that she may have missed certain deadlines. In response, Conwell informed Ms. Brewington that, "[i]f you filed with the EEOC, you should just wait. They are a slow government organization."

         Upon further investigation, Conwell learned that, "due to the passage of time before he had been hired," he would not be able to "file anything on new allegations with" the Maryland Commission or EEOC. He communicated to Ms. Brewington that they would need to rely on what she had filed, and based on his "knowledge of employment law," concluded that the statute of limitations had expired with regard to filing with the Maryland Commission.

         Judge Schaeffer also found, in part, that,

Respondent exchanged emails with Ms. Brewington during the representation in which he provided her legal advice about the significance of the [statutory filing deadlines] and provided her with legal advice explaining that because this time period had passed they needed to rely upon what she had previously filed. In sum, during the course of representing Ms. Brewington, Respondent and Ms. Brewington exchanged emails in which Respondent sought information from Ms. Brewington and provided her with legal advice. According to Ms. Brewington, "there were hundreds of emails" between her and the Respondent.

         While Bar Counsel contended that Conwell failed to enter his appearance on behalf of Ms. Brewington with the EEOC, Judge Schaeffer was unable to find that "to be the case by clear and convincing evidence." In so finding, Judge Schaeffer relied on an email correspondence between Conwell and Ms. Brewington in which he sent the entry of appearance to her for signature and email correspondence between Conwell and the EEOC, in which the EEOC referred to Ms. Brewington as Conwell's "client."

         Judge Schaeffer further found that Conwell "advanced" Ms. Brewington's "causes and claims in some respects." For example, Judge Schaeffer found that he "analyzed the facts and reached a legal conclusion" regarding whether Ms. Brewington could file new, or amend previous, complaints with either the EEOC or Maryland Commission. She further found that Conwell informed Ms. Brewington of her legal rights and "advised her that her EEOC claim was still viable, that it had not been dismissed and that there was no deadline preventing that claim from proceeding." Judge Schaeffer also detailed other steps Conwell took in the early period of his representation of Ms. Brewington, such as exchanging emails with individuals from the EEOC, communicating with the EEOC supervisor, and questioning Ms. Brewington's former employer.

         Judge Schaeffer also found, however, "that after the initial few months of representing Ms. Brewington, [Conwell's] work on the case became sporadic and his communications with his client erratic." Ms. Brewington testified that she began to feel neglected in her representation due to Conwell's inconsistent replies to her emails and lack of certainty when asked on the phone about the status of her case. Further, on May 31, 2015, June 3, 2015, and August 10, 2015, Ms. Brewington requested that Conwell send her a copy of the letter he purportedly drafted to send to opposing counsel, but she never received a copy of it; Judge Schaeffer, in fact, found there was "no evidence that the Respondent ever drafted such a letter." Judge Schaeffer also found that Conwell had not communicated with opposing counsel until a year into his representation of Ms. Brewington. While there may have been lapses in communication, Judge Schaeffer, nevertheless, ultimately concluded that it was not proven that these lapses caused Ms. Brewington to "miss any deadlines or lose any legal rights."

         Ms. Brewington ultimately terminated the representation. She sent Conwell a certified letter, dated August 10, 2015, informing him, but the letter was later returned to Ms. Brewington, as Conwell never signed for it. Twice, on August 20 and 25, 2015, respectively, Ms. Brewington emailed Conwell informing him of her intent to terminate the representation. In each communication, Ms. Brewington requested a refund of the retainer fee she had paid Conwell. Conwell, however, refused and also failed to provide Ms. Brewington an accounting or a copy of her client file.

         On September 14, 2015, Ms. Brewington filed a complaint with Bar Counsel. Judge Schaeffer found that Conwell failed to respond to Bar Counsel's request for a copy of Ms. Brewington's client file.

         Representation of Gino and Gina DeSerio

         As to Conwell's representation of the DeSerios, Judge Schaeffer, by clear and convincing evidence, made the following factual findings.

         On July 24, 2014, Gino DeSerio, and his sister, Gina DeSerio, retained Conwell to represent Mr. DeSerio in an action to modify a preexisting Child Custody Order between Mr. DeSerio and his child's mother, a Florida resident. On July 24, 2014, the DeSerios met with Conwell and entered into a retainer agreement. The agreement stated that Conwell would charge an hourly rate of $375.00 and that the DeSerios would pay a $2, 500.00 retainer fee, so that Conwell would represent Mr. DeSerio in his child custody battle. In return, Conwell would "send [the DeSerios] periodic invoices setting forth the amount of the fees." The retainer agreement further specified:

In the event that a dispute arises regarding services (included but not limited to malpractice), fees or costs, you will notify our firm within thirty (30) days after the dispute arises. Should the dispute not be resolved, you agree to submit any such disputes to binding arbitration before a neutral arbitrator in the City of Annapolis, Maryland.

         On July 28, 2014, August 26, 2014, August 27, 2014, and September 13, 2014, Conwell submitted a series of filings on Mr. DeSerio's behalf with the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Those filings included: an Emergency Petition to Modify and Change Custody of Minor Child and Motion to Shorten Time; a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Re: Petition to Modify and Change Custody of Minor Child and a Request for a Hearing; a Line Re: Docket Entry Describing a Petition for Contempt and []Objections to the Master's Report and Recommendation; Petitioner's Notification of Withdrawal of "Emergency" and Expedited Relief Motions; and a Line Re: Petitioner's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Judge Schaeffer, however, found that these filings "were not supported by fact or law and failed to advance Mr. DeSerio's case." She further found that the trial judge in the original case, in ruling on each filing, concluded that the issues presented therein were either not ripe or otherwise not actionable.

         In September 2014, Ms. DeSerio received an invoice from Conwell reflecting an outstanding balance of $11, 560.00. Judge Schaeffer found the "majority of the fees charged by Respondent were unreasonable, as the services he performed had little to no value and failed to advance Mr. DeSerio's case in any way whatsoever." Judge Schaeffer further found that, as evidenced by this invoice, Conwell had "failed to timely communicate with the DeSerio[s] regarding the status of their retainer and escalating fees." Conwell and the DeSerios, however, subsequently, agreed that the DeSerios "would make monthly payments of $500 toward the outstanding balance[, ]" of which they made three of between September 26, 2014 and November 26, 2014, resulting in an amount paid of $1, 500 plus the retainer fee. Eventually, communication between Conwell and the DeSerios deteriorated, and their legal relationship was eventually terminated. Upon retaining new counsel, the DeSerios "obtained a modification of the custody order" in Mr. DeSerio's favor "within six months."

         On March 20, 2015, Conwell filed a breach of contract action in the District Court of Anne Arundel County against the DeSerios, alleging that they owed him $11, 110.00 in unpaid attorney's fees. On May 3, 2015, the DeSerios filed a complaint with Bar Counsel. Subsequently, on May 19, 2015, Conwell requested a jury trial in his collection case against the DeSerios, but his request was denied, because his claim did not exceed $15, 000.[16]

         Conwell then filed an amended complaint on May 29, 2015, again in the District Court, requesting a jury trial for the second time. The complaint was accompanied with an invoice detailing "his fees and costs associated with collection efforts against" the DeSerios. The alleged amount owed on the invoice was $16, 533.50, thus exceeding the $15, 000 threshold for requesting a jury trial. On October 17, 2016, Conwell's complaint against the DeSerios was consensually dismissed, and Conwell refunded the DeSerios the $4, 000 they had paid him.

         In further deciphering this chain of events, Judge Schaeffer, finding a "review of the May 29, 2015 Invoice helpful[, ]" explained

[a]s previously stated, the May 29, 2015 Invoice indicated that as of March 20, 2015, the filing date of his Verified Complaint, the Respondent had billed 7.3 hours on his collection efforts against the DeSerios, not the 4.3 hours alleged in the Respondent's Verified Complaint or his Verified Complaint (First Amended) filed on April 14, 2015. According to the May 29, 2015 Invoice, as of April 14, 2015 (the filing date of his Verified Complaint (First Amended)) Respondent had actually billed 11.4 hours on his collection efforts against the DeSerios.[17] Thus, Respondent billed 7.1 hours between the filing of Respondent's original Verified Complaint and the First Amended Complaint. In total, the May 29, 2015 Invoice reflected that Respondent's firm billed 45 hours ($16, 553.50) for the collection efforts on an $11, 110.00 debt.[18]

         Ultimately, Judge Schaeffer found the numbers reflected in Conwell's invoice for 45 hours to be "greatly inflated and unreasonable." She concluded her findings, as to the representation of the DeSerios, stating

[i]f Respondent was as busy as he advised Ms. Brewington he was on April 9, 2015, he and his staff would likely not have had forty-five hours to expend on an $11, 110.00 collection case. This court further finds that Respondent inflated the May 29th Invoice in an attempt to increase the amount in controversy to meet the requirements of a jury trial prayer, to recover unreasonable and unnecessary attorney's fees and/or to gain negotiating leverage in collecting the alleged underlying debt under the terms of the retainer agreement.

         Representation of Dennis Olsen

         In October 2011, Dennis Olsen retained Conwell to represent him in some real estate matters. Mr. Olsen, upon conclusion of those real estate matters, retained Conwell to represent him in a divorce proceeding against his wife; Mr. Olsen and his wife later reconciled, however, and voluntarily dismissed the divorce complaint. Following "the conclusion of these two representations," Conwell posited that Mr. Olsen "owed [him] an outstanding balance of approximately $37, 580.00 for legal services." Conwell filed an attorney's lien for that amount "on and against any settlement, judgment or award, and against [Mr. Olsen's] marital property in the [divorce matter.]" On November 4, 2014, however, Mr. Olsen filed for bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.[19] The following day, Conwell informed Mr. Olsen of the attorney's lien he had recently filed against him.

         Mr. Olsen filed a list of creditors holding "unsecured nonpriority claims in his bankruptcy case[, ]" listing Conwell "as a debtor with a claim of $35, 000." In turn, Conwell filed a Proof of Claim in the Bankruptcy Court, claiming Mr. Olsen owed his firm a secured debt of $51, 329.50. He additionally filed two motions in Maryland Circuit Court in "an attempt to enforce his attorney's lien."[20] On December 8, 2015, the Circuit Court denied Conwell's motions to enforce the liens. On January 7, 2016, as a result, Conwell filed a Notice of Appeal with the Court of Special Appeals.

         Having previously closed Mr. Olsen's bankruptcy matter, the Bankruptcy Court, in 2016, reopened his case "for the purpose of allowing [Mr. Olsen] to file a Motion for Contempt and Sanctions against [Conwell] for Violation of the Automatic Stay and Discharge Injunction." Conwell received notice of the motion. On April 6, 2016, Mr. Olsen filed a "Motion for Order to Show Cause Why Scott Conwell, Esq. Should Not be Held in Contempt for Violation of the Discharge Injunction in the Bankruptcy Court." Conwell received notice of the motion through the Bankruptcy Court's electronic filing system. Nearly contemporaneously, on April 8, 2016, the Court of Special Appeals ordered Conwell "to provide transcripts to the Court in accordance with Maryland Rule 8-411 in furtherance of his appeal."

         On April 14, 2016, the Bankruptcy Court ordered Conwell "to reply to Mr. Olsen's Motion to Show Cause no later than two weeks from the date of the Order and to appear for a show cause hearing on May 24, 2016."[21] Again, Conwell received timely electronic notice of this order, but failed to respond. Conwell also failed to appear at the Show Cause hearing on May 24, 2016. As a result, at the hearing,

[t]he Bankruptcy Court found that Respondent "got notice of the discharge and, therefore he clearly willfully violated the discharge injunction" by attempting to enforce his attorney's liens in Maryland. The Bankruptcy Court [also] found [Conwell] in contempt and entered an Order so indicating . . . . The Bankruptcy Court further ordered that Respondent "cease and desist any and all actions related to the creation and/or enforcement of Attorney's liens against [Mr. Olsen]'s assets, including the dismissal of the appeal." The Bankruptcy Court ordered the Respondent to pay damages in the amount of $31, 279.10 to Mr. Olsen plus $30, 000 in punitive damages within thirty days of the signing of the Order, which occurred on September 12, 2016.

         On October 17, 2016, despite the Bankruptcy Court's Order, Conwell filed a Motion for Extension to File Appellant's Brief in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Conwell, however, "never filed his brief, and ultimately, on December 20, 2016[, ]" his appeal was dismissed "pursuant to Md. Rule 8-602(a)(7) for failure to file a brief or record extract."

         Judge Schaeffer concluded her findings of fact, with respect to the Olsen representation, by stating, "Respondent admits he did not cease and desist any and all actions related to the enforcement of his attorney's lien against Mr. Olsen."

         RULE VIOLATIONS

         We review recommended conclusions of law without deference to the hearing judge. Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Woolery, 456 Md. 483, 494175 A.3d 129, 136 (2017). In the course of that review, we consider any exceptions filed by the parties.

         As to Ms. Brewington

         With respect to Conwell's representation of Ms. Brewington, Judge Schaeffer, after analyzing the facts described above, concluded that he violated Rules 1.3, 1.4, and Rule 8.4(a) and (d), but not Rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, and 1.16.[22] Bar Counsel took no exceptions to these conclusions. Conwell, however, excepted to Judge Schaeffer's conclusion that Rule 8.4(d) had been violated. In his "Exceptions and Recommendations Concerning Disposition" filing, Conwell explicitly states that he "does not except to the circuit court's Rule 1.3 and 1.4" conclusions, and as such, we accept those Rule violations as proven. Conwell specifically argues, however, that his "lack of diligence and communication" cannot support a Rule 8.4(d) violation.

         Conwell excepts to Judge Schaeffer's conclusion that he violated Rule 8.4(d) when he failed to appropriately communicate with Ms. Brewington about the status of her case and failed to diligently pursue her claims. Conwell posits that because Ms. Brewington did not miss any deadlines or lose any legal rights as a result of his inaction, Rule 1.3 and 1.4 violations, which do not prejudice the administration of justice or bring the legal profession into disrepute, cannot support a Rule 8.4(d) violation.

[An attorney's] failure to promptly, completely and truthfully respond to Bar Counsel's requests for information, to keep his client advised of the status of the representation and to diligently represent the complainant constitutes conduct which tends to bring the legal profession into disrepute and is therefore prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Kirwan, 450 Md. 447, 462-63, 149 A.3d 561, 570 (2016) (quoting Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Brown, 426 Md. 298, 324-25, 44 A.3d 344, 360 (2012) (internal citation omitted)); see also Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Rose, 391 Md. 101, 111, 892 A.2d 469, 475 (2006) (concluding that Rule 8.4(d) was violated where attorney failed to keep client advised of the status of the representation and to diligently represent client's interests, conduct "which tends to bring the legal profession into disrepute and is therefore prejudicial to the administration of justice"). Furthermore, while not every unnecessary delay or failure to carry out duties expeditiously violates the rule prohibiting conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, a "repeated failure to communicate with clients (or others) that impairs the discharge of the attorney's duties in a case can violate [Rule 8.4(d)]." Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Smith, 442 Md. 14, 31, 109 A.3d 1184, 1194 (2015). "An attorney may also violate [Rule 8.4(d)] when the attorney's conduct 'reflects negatively on the legal profession and sets a bad example for the public at large.'" Id. (quoting Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Brady, 422 Md. 441, 460, 30 A.3d 902, 913 (2011) (internal citations omitted)).

         In Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Barnett, 440 Md. 254, 102 A.3d 310 (2014), we held that the Respondent, Barnett, violated Rule 8.4(d), based in part on his failure to notify a client of scheduled hearing dates and to communicate with her for at least ten months during the representation, conduct which also supported the conclusions that Rules 1.3 and 1.4 had also been violated. 440 Md. at 268, 102 A.3d at 318. As such, we found that "Barnett's actions violated [the client's] trust and her reasonable expectation that Barnett would diligently and honestly represent her interests. Such misconduct negatively impacts the public's perception of the legal profession." Id.; see also Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Bleecker, 414 Md. 147, 175, 994 A.2d 928, 944 (2010) (concluding a Rule 8.4(d) violation where attorney failed to promptly notify client and advise her to seek advice of independent counsel regarding a malpractice action, which "seriously impair[ed] public confidence in the entire profession").

         Judge Schaeffer concluded that Conwell's "conduct taken as a whole, in particular his lack of initiative and his seeming disinterest in Ms. Brewington's case after the initial few months of representation, brings the legal profession into disrepute in violation of Rule 8.4(d)." We agree that Conwell's failure to respond to Ms. Brewington's repeated requests for information and his lack of diligence in her representation amounted to a Rule 8.4(d) violation. Conwell's failure to keep Ms. Brewington reasonably informed about the status of her matter coupled with his failure to respond to her reasonable requests for information provides a sufficient basis to overrule his exception, as the "misconduct negatively impacts the public's perception of the legal profession." See Barnett, 440 Md. at 268, 102 A.3d at 318.

         Conwell avers that, despite his lapses in communication and diligence, his conduct was not prejudicial to the administration of justice, as Ms. Brewington did not miss any deadlines or lose any legal rights due to his shortcomings. For support, Conwell relies on Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Rand, 411 Md. 83, 981 A.2d 1234 (2009). In that case, we sustained Rand's exception to a Rule 8.4(d) violation because, based on our de novo review, Rand's failure to timely return records, without any explanation to opposing counsel, and the retention of the records in violation of an agreement between the parties was not conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. 411 Md. at 95, 981 A.2d at 1242. Rand is distinguishable from the instant case, however, because here Conwell's failure to inform Ms. Brewington about her case and his failure to respond to her repeated requests for information as to the status of her case violated Rules 1.3 and 1.4, which supports the 8.4(d) violation, according to our jurisprudence.

         Accordingly, we agree with Judge Schaeffer's conclusion and overrule Conwell's exception.

         As to the DeSerios

         With respect to Conwell's representation of the DeSerios, Judge Schaeffer concluded that Conwell violated Rules 1.1, 1.5, Rule 3.3(a)(1), (a)(2), and (a)(4), and Rule 8.4(a) and (d), but not Rule 1.4. Bar Counsel excepts to the hearing court's failure to conclude a Rule 1.4 violation. Conwell excepts to the hearing court's conclusion that he violated Rules 1.1, 1.5, 3.3(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(4) and 8.4(a) and (d).

         Bar Counsel excepts to Judge Schaeffer's conclusion that Conwell did not violate Rule 1.4. Bar Counsel posits that throughout his representation of the DeSerios, Conwell failed to keep them apprised of their escalating legal fees, and as such, this failure to communicate violated Rule 1.4. While Judge Schaeffer found that Conwell failed "to promptly advise the DeSerios that their retainer had been exhausted and further work would result in additional fees," she was unable to conclude that Rule 1.4 was violated ...


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