Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Attorney Grievance Commission v. Rees (Ct. of Appeals)

Filed December 20, 2006--Opinion by Chief Judge Robert M. Bell

The Respondent was charged with violating a number of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Following a hearing, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County found that the Respondent did not respond to Bar Counsel's request for information in a timely manner and had withdrawn fees from her escrow account before they were earned. The hearing court rejected allegations that the Respondent had failed to communicate with her clients, charged an unreasonable fee, or fabricated her billing statements and did not actually perform the services for which she billed. The Respondent did not file any exceptions to the hearing court’s findings of fact or conclusions of law and, at argument, had expressly acknowledged her misconduct and made clear that she was not challenging that aspect of the case.

The Attorney Grievance Commission took exceptions to the hearing court's failure to find violations of Rules 1.15 (b) and 1.16 (d) because the Respondent had acknowledged that she failed to send copies of her billing statement to her clients in response to a letter from them and that she was aware of an error in billing her clients and owed them a refund of $257.00 that had not yet been made.

Because the lower court's findings also reflected that it found that a refund was in fact owed, the Court of Appeals sustained the exceptions. Finding that the misconduct that the Respondent had been found to have engaged in was quite serious but, also, that it was isolated and not likely to be repeated, the Court determined that a thirty-day suspension would protect the public interest and be appropriate.

The full opinion is available in WordPerfect and PDF.

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