Accept the rules and live with it, or accept the consequences for not accepting them. Someone is going to have some consequences, and I’m willing to accept that I might be one of them. But I don’t think that I’ll be alone. This is a post that I never imagined I’d be writing, but it must be written. Sometimes, events converge together in such a way that ignoring them becomes impossible to do. Such is the case here.
As previously written on this blog, the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC) and Office of Bar Counsel (OBC) have been the subject of a test of sorts by me. I wanted to see what happens when a member of the public (me) presents them with legitimate complaints about Maryland attorneys. While the outcome of that will be revealed in a subsequent post, I wanted to write about something alarming I’ve discovered about them.
Some time ago, I got alerted to a case in which the OBC seemed to quite deliberately avoid processing complaints that were lodged against two of their very own. Originally, I had reservations about posting the information I received because the AGC had fought (and won) to have the case sealed, meaning that the papers I had gotten possession of were no longer accessible to anyone attempting to get them from the court.
I began to rethink my decision when I received information that a group of nearly 20 people had made complaints to the SAME entity regarding yet another “one of their own” at the OBC. Those people’s complaints were apparently blown off by the Attorney Grievance Commission, prompting a number of them to circle back to ask Marianne Lee of the AGC what had become of their concerns. After being redirected to the Maryland Rules concerning how they are SUPPOSED to process complaints, I noticed clearly that they are required to investigate complaints that they get and it can be from nearly any source.
So of course I’m thinking to myself: “wow, so the rules don’t apply to them!” (note: it wasn’t a question)
But then things got REALLY interesting. I started hearing from people who had additions to the story, and they wanted it to be told. An amazing thing happens when people start uniting once they learn that the things they were told were deliberate lies. People start taking risks in order to get out the truths that need to be told. Those people must remain nameless, but I am forever in their debt for their contributions. As a media source, I will protect my sources.
Someone rounded up the folks who made those nearly 20 complaints and started putting their stuff on a website called www.MarylandLegalIntegrity.com (cool name, though they have a hell of a battle ahead of them if that’s what they’re aiming to create). And what you can see when you click on one of the left tabs are July 2017 letters from Marianne Lee at the AGC in which she does indeed appear to be acting like she is “clueless” (that website’s word, not mine but I like it) about what is supposed to happen when information is received by them about misconduct of a Maryland attorney.
Unless, of course, the Rules don’t apply to some Maryland attorneys! (again, note: not a question)
Focusing for a moment on the fact that the documentation from (I assume) twenty people was sent to Marianne directly in Feb-March of 2017, I want to point out some facts to the reader. In April of 2016, complaints were made about TWO attorneys at the Office of Bar Counsel. When almost A YEAR went by without hearing anything about his complaints, the complainant filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus with the Maryland Court of Appeals in order to attempt to force them to process the complaints. The AGC responded by first filing a Motion to Seal the proceedings, before they would file a response to it. That motion was granted by the Court of Appeals. The two attorneys (subjects of the complaints) have since left the Office of Bar Counsel to work in other legal settings.
Enter, stage left, the case of the complaints filed by Ty Clevenger regarding three Maryland attorneys of Hillary Clinton’s that have been implicated in the deletion of emails issue. Mr. Clevenger’s complaints were filed in September of 2016 against 3 prominent and politically-connected attorneys. With lightning speed and in less than a month, Raymond Hein (former Acting Bar Counsel for the OBC) responded that essentially…”thank you very much for your interest sir, but we will NOT be looking into the claims of misconduct you are bringing to us”. Clevenger volleyed back with essentially… “not so fast there, partner, we aren’t done dancing”, and Hein essentially finished with “..if you make me, I will”.
Those who are in-the-know, or have otherwise read or seen news coverage from Fox, ABA Journal or the Capital Gazette, already know that what transpired with a judge in the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County was essentially that… “AGC… you WILL dance this dance to Mr. Clevenger’s music selection, and it doesn’t really matter if you like the song”. (I’d like to point out that for a case that was ‘sealed’, there SURE was some media coverage long before MY story… so, I’m jumping on a bandwagon!)
Mr. Clevenger, we’ve never met, but I respect what you seem to be trying to do in our country. I care not about your political leanings, because I am more attracted to your belief that corruption is not a market that is cornered by either major party. I did not vote for Mr. Trump for my own reasons, but I am one of those people who felt stuck this past election cycle because I sensed a “lesser of two evils” scenario in which I didn’t like either evil. If there is a swamp to be drained in Washington, then there is perhaps a large body of sewer water here in Maryland that also needs draining.
I’d like to give you, and a few other people, a gift: the gift of INFORMATION that was bestowed upon me…
For the nearly 20 that let Marianne Lee know their concerns about one of their own: YOU DID go to the right person with them. Don’t let anyone (and I specifically mean Ms Lee herself) tell you otherwise as she has attempted (I understand that a number of you also went to Brian Frosh DIRECTLY with your concerns). Hint: he already knew about them long before you approached him, as you will soon learn.
For Mr. Clevenger who will be embarking on the journey of trying to get the AGC to look at politically connected Maryland attorneys: you can see who they thought should be doing what (or rather, the playing-around that they are masters at). You seem like the kind who can do a great deal with this information, so go forth and do great things with it!
And for the rest of us, the “public” who are supposed to be the recipients of care and service from this collection of attorneys who themselves may have questionable integrity (and ethics): I only wish you “good luck” in trying to get them to do as their masthead and “rules” say. I myself don’t appear to have the qualifications for membership in that exclusive club in which benefits can be received. As the famous Maya Angelou is quoted as saying, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them!”
And I do.
So, let the consequences of all of our actions come as they will. I’m ready, AGC and OBC… ARE YOU?
P.S. I’m eternally grateful to those who want to do the right thing, despite the potential costs! Democracy does die in darkness. May this offer some needed light.
Here are the documents:
Mandamus action 1 (working on getting a better copy from her on this one, so an update will come if I can get my hands on it)
AGC motion to seal, and then response before sealing done:
Clevenger’s petition for writ of mandamus:
AGC motion to seal and motion to dismiss (MTD didn’t work!):
Clevenger’s responses to both:
And HERE is the biggie: