Update: 6/24/17 Complaints were sent to he AGC about these attorneys, but as of today’s date, the AGC has sent NO correspondence to me to indicate that they’ve asked these attorneys to respond to my complaint. Regime change over at the AGC is coming with a new Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless being appointed. One can only hope that she takes seriously an allegation of Lying to the Court.
Update: 5/24/17 Apparently (from the comment below), there’s a group of people who have something to say about the way things are being done by someone over at the Attorney Grievance Commission who’s being considered for a big promotion. We decline to comment on it, because some things speak for themselves. However, if prosecutors of attorneys are themselves not being honest with the courts, what’s that say about the value of Truth?
The title of this post will likely seem silly to many. I mean, we’re talking about a COURT of Law. More people than not are aware that people call it “Liar’s Court” for a reason. Granted, a plaintiff or defendant who makes a statement to the court that ends up being false CAN get in trouble with the court. Perjury is very serious, but I will write that it’s only serious if there’s a culture that is willing to penalize a person for doing it (thereby deterring others from thinking it is okay to do). But plaintiffs and defendants aren’t the only ones in the courtroom.
Attorneys. Officers of the court. While all attorneys who are barred in Maryland have responsibilities to their clients, they also have responsibilities to the court itself. Believe it or not, attorneys actually have the duty to tell the truth to the court. When they file documents with a court, they have an obligation to ensure that what they’ve filed isn’t false. When they state things requesting that the court rely upon them, they have an obligation to make sure it’s accurate. When they realize there’s something they filed or stated for the court that wasn’t entirely accurate, THEY are supposed to correct their misrepresentation with the court especially when the court relied upon it.
The Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission: created by the Maryland Court of Appeals in the 1970s to protect the citizens of Maryland from attorneys who have problems following the rules that they are ethically bound to follow. Specifically, their website contains the language: “..dedicated to protecting the public and maintaining the integrity of the legal profession.” Reading further, it is written that “In carrying out their functions and evaluating complaints and enforcing ethical standards for lawyers, the Commission and Bar Counsel strive for fairness and equity.”
It SOUNDS good.
In the Preamble for the Rules of Professional Conduct, the following language is found: “Virtually all difficult ethical problems arise from conflict between an attorney’s responsibilities to clients, to the legal system and to the attorney’s own interest in remaining an ethical individual while earning a satisfactory living.” Attorneys are evaluated for their CHARACTER when they try to get into the Maryland Bar, but since character continually evolves (and sometimes devolves), it is up to citizens (both public and legal ones) to report to the Commission when an issue arises. That Preamble and the Rules do make that clear. In the Preamble: “Compliance with the Rules, as with all law in an open society, depends primarily upon understanding and voluntary compliance, secondarily upon reinforcement by peer and public opinion…” Gotcha! Right there… Peer and Public.
A member of the public only needs to make a complaint in order to get the ball rolling to spark the Office of Bar Counsel into action. And they make it very easy to do. The complaint form is downloadable on the website, and I’ve even heard that they will send you one in the mail if you need them to! Nice service!
Their form looks like it operates as a screening mechanism of sorts for them: Did you employ the attorney? Yes or no? If not, what’s your connection to the attorney? Did you complain about him or him to anyone else? (code for, “let’s see what someone else may have done”) Is the complaint about a law suit? Which one? (code for, “we know it gets rough with all that ‘zealous representation’ that lawyers do, but we don’t want to get dragged into THAT cat fight”) But since the AGC does have what they call a “Deferred Docket”, it appears that they can wait until the cat fight ends before picking the complaint back up again. Encouraging to think that they might do this as opposed to disposing of complaints summarily, but I doubt that docket exists! More on why in a moment.
The thing about any system (and that does include government) is that despite having Rules, policies, and procedures, it is run by humans. And the very nature of any system of government that was created, particularly those created to protect “the people”, is that it is the servant of the PEOPLE. You’re welcome to debate me on this, but in democracy, there is no place for a blanket of “because I said so” to be placed over its citizens. There should be NO DOUBT in any mind in these times that the will of the people is not so easily extinguished. Indeed, as the Washington Post states prominently on its website… “DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS”. It’s a personal affront for ANY Maryland government entity to actively engage in tactics designed to (or even just appearing to) prevent transparency and accountability.
So let’s take our flashlight to shine a light on a few things:
According to the AGC’s “Administrative and Procedural Guidelines” originally adopted by them in August of 2001 (ok wow, did it REALLY possibly take nearly 30 years to have them created? That may be the FIRST red flag!):
3.23 “Policy decisions, the nature and extent of record keeping, methods of processing Complaints and office procedures shall be established by the Commission and implemented by Bar Counsel and the Executive Secretary under the supervision of designated members of the Commission.”
This appears to indicate that there are methods of processing complaints that were established. But, I hesitate to rely upon that just because it’s written in their Guidelines. Make no mistake, Bar Counsel OBVIOUSLY processes complaints, but as for the “method of processing”? Well THAT leaves a whole lot of ambiguity unless it’s written down somewhere.
Oh, but have no fear! We also find that:
4.3 “Bar Counsel shall prepare and maintain an up-to-date office manual, which shall contain, in addition to material selected in the discretion of Bar Counsel, all policies adopted from time to time by the Commission as well as specific procedures for processing complaints.”
As those M&M candy dudes are so famously known to say in the commercial… They DO exist!
I’m not trying to make this into a comedic post, but sometimes, things are so ridiculously obvious that you almost have to laugh at the fact that they are to keep from crying out in frustration.
As a member of the public who has the ability to submit a complaint against an attorney for misconduct, it is highly relevant for me to know and understand the “specific procedures for processing complaints” that this Commission purports to have. Unless the “guidelines” posted prominently on their website are really just smoke and mirrors, they clearly state that at least from the year 2008 and forward, Bar Counsel was to prepare a manual and then maintain it via updates (I will assume). There is NO ambiguity in the word “SHALL”.
So what do you think happened when I made a request of the AGC using the Public Information Act to obtain a copy of that up-to-date office manual that allegedly exists? If your guess was disclosure, then you DO NOT get to pass Go nor collect $200 in this game. The official response from them was that there was no manual that existed.
Hmmm. Now THAT’S troubling for a number of reasons. Isn’t the Office of Bar Counsel run by, well, attorneys? And call me crazy, but, aren’t they the main ones who are supposed to know that they are supposed to follow… THE RULES? But let me recognize that it does say “Guidelines”. (perhaps that wasn’t a strong enough word to prompt compliance? Red flag #2?) This is truly one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations, because no standardized process of handling public complaints invites humans to do things in accordance with their whims and desires.
That’s a dangerous ability for a place with the significance that the AGC and the Office of Bar Counsel have, to possess. Surely, someone before me has asked them for the manual? If there was going to be NO MANUAL produced, then why not adopt that on one of the amendment dates listed? No attorney has asked for the manual so they can ensure that the proper procedures were used in order to try to sanction or disbar them? I find that INCREDIBLY unbelievable!
So without any prescribed methods for handling complaints, there’s no telling whether the AGC and Office of Bar Counsel are or aren’t doing what I am entrusting them to do when I actually take the time to document the details of my complaint against a Maryland attorney (or two) and submit it to them. (note: that isn’t a question!) Such secretiveness! I’m amazed that this secrecy is not only alive but also thrives in the State of Maryland as it relates to the judiciary. And I’m sure that the AGC would fall back on the position that there is immunity for what they do, because of their function. Though, not so much when you fail to do something that is clearly mandated that you do.
I chose this topic, in part, because I made a complaint to the Office of Bar Counsel against two attorneys in 2013. Their retention schedule tells me that they don’t have any of those files, and I doubt there is that Deferred Docket. Because if there were one, they would have taken the information that I gave them in 2013 about the misrepresentations made to multiple courts (sometimes, conflicting ones) and either pursued it to protect THIS member of the public, or put it onto that alleged Docket for further processing. Had they sanctioned them for those misrepresentations (false statements) made to the court, I may not have had to go through the last four years that I did having to get the Court of Special Appeals to state in an opinion what every single one of us already knew from the start (because we were all there)! Despite there being an obligation for an attorney to correct material misrepresentations made to the court, neither attorney has done so TO DATE.
And THAT’S why the title of this post is as it is. What started a few years ago as just a complaint about two attorneys, grew into an inquiry into the system that I and every Marylander have already or may encounter. The AGC and Office of Bar Counsel failed this citizen four years ago. But now that I shrugged off that blanket of “because I said so” and have learned what I’ve learned, I’m going to write that I’m not at all surprised. I don’t trust them to protect me, and have learned that it was best for me to do all I’ve done to ultimately protect myself.
It’s interesting that I know for a fact that the Maryland Court of Appeals is FULLY aware about the problems that lying presents in the judicial climate. I will dare to write that I believe Judge Sally Adkins even knows that attorneys will try to lie to the court. It was an Attorney Grievance Commission attorney disbarment case held before her where she said the following: “Lying is a disease in his country.”
That Preamble that was written before the actual Rules that attorneys in Maryland are supposed to know and follow, at the very start of it, states that an attorney is “..a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”
When “truth to the tribunal” isn’t held to be important by those watching over those who affect our quality of justice, it’s questionable whether justice can ever really ensue. As the saying goes, what you reward is what gets perpetuated.
Because I don’t believe for one moment that the AGC and Office of Bar Counsel will ever be interested in pursuing my recently-filed complaint centered around TRUTH, I’m posting the 1st page of what I provided to them here on this page at the bottom. I consider it to be my First Amendment right to do so, and I’m exercising it because I can. When my government fails me, I will exercise self-help remedies that are legally mine. Stay tuned for the results of the PIA I’m requesting today of the AGC for information about the Guidelines in place right before each amendment. Curious now about when the word “shall” appeared!
Anybody else have anything to share about their experience with the Office of Bar Counsel? Any experiences that will reveal what their culture is over there as it relates to TRUTH? Please, do tell… because from where I stand, they have ZERO interest in letting attorneys know that they are obligated to tell the truth to the tribunal.cover sheets
Page one of the several pages of the actual complaint. It has EVERYTHING to do with attorneys making false statements to courts and NOT correcting them when they are obligated to: