The 2014 to 2015 Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission’s Annual Report has just been published. Attorney Grievance Commission During the 2015 fiscal year, 44 Maryland attorneys were disbarred, 33 were suspended, 8 were reprimanded by the Court of Appeals, and 24 were reprimanded by the AGC. Montgomery County led Maryland with 69 docket cases.
The report contains summaries of all the attorneys who were disciplined. Dennis Alan Van Dusen set the record for the shortest amount of time between being licensed as a Maryland attorney and being disbarred. He was admitted to the Bar on November 1, 2012. Six weeks later, he was criminally charged with 15 counts of surreptitious viewing and video recording of his female tenants; and he pled guilty on April 16, 2013 to 3 counts of visual surveillance of individuals in a private place without consent. He was disbarred on May 8, 2015.
Mark T. Mixter was disbarred for his flagrant abuse of the discovery process, including issuing and trying to enforce invalid subpoenas, intimidating witnesses, and generally obstructing the administration of justice. At the disbarment trial, Bar Counsel introduced evidence of Mr. Mixture’s misconduct from 22 different cases.
Bar Counsel interviewed many of Mr. Mixter’s opposing counsel. When Bar Counsel asked why they didn’t report Mr. Mixter’s deliberate pattern of misconduct to the Attorney Grievance Commission, the answer was always the same: “Once the case was over, I didn’t want to hear Mixter’s name ever again”.
Practice Pointer for Attorneys: Rule 8.3(a) of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct requires an attorney to report a violation “that raises substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects”.
We expect that attorneys should be able to write well. After all, litigation involves filing countless motions and oppositions. I having read thousands of documents drafted by opposing counsels, I estimate that about 5% are excellent writers, 90% are good writers, and 5% are horrible writers.
If you want to retain an attorney who is an excellent writer, I recommend that you ask the attorney for a recent writing sample and ask the attorney the names of the last 3 books he or she has read. Great writers are also prolific readers. Steven King, who has sold in excess of 300 million books, states this about writing: ““If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
I read about 40 books a year. My favorite authors include Dave Barry, Bill Bryson, Christopher Buckley, Michael Connelly, Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), John Grisham, Chelsea Handler, William Least Heat-Moon, Steven King, Stieg Larrson, Michael Lewis, George R.R. Martin, Chris Moore, David Sedaris, Robert Reich, Neal Stephenson, Sarah Vowell, and Jeannette Walls.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book, Blink, about an analysis of medical malpractice lawsuits. In the medical malpractice analysis, it was determined that there are doctors who make many mistakes and never get sued while there are highly skilled doctors who get sued quite often. Most people who sustain an injury due to doctor negligence never file a lawsuit. Gladwell found that patients file suits because they’ve been harmed by medical negligence and because something else happens to them. That something else is how the patient was treated by his or her doctor on a personal level. Gladwell noted the results of a researcher’s study of hundreds of conversations that were recorded between a group of physicians and their patients. About half the doctors had never been sued; the other half had been sued at least twice.
The researcher found that just on the basis of the conversations, clear differences between the groups could be observed. The doctors who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued. The doctors who had never been sued were more likely to engage in active listening, encouraging their patients to expand on what they were saying. Those doctors were far more likely to laugh and be funny during the visit. There was no difference between the groups in the quality or quantity of the information they gave their patients. The difference was in how they spoke and the extra three minutes the doctors who never were sued devoted to their patients. The doctor whose tone was dominant tended to be in the sued group; the doctor whose voice sounded less dominant and more concerned tended to be in the non-sued group. Gladwell concluded that it came down to a matter of respect and that the simplest way that respect is communicated is through tone of voice. A doctor’s dominant tone will likely place that doctor in the sued group.
Gladwell suggested that when you next meet a doctor in his office and he begins to speak, if you sense that he’s talking down to you or isn’t treating you with respect, listen to that feeling–you have found him wanting. Finally, Gladwell quotes a medical malpractice lawyer, who observed that in all the years in the business she never had a potential client who said, I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him.
Likewise, I cannot recall a single client who ever told me that his/her attorney always treated him/her with the utmost respect, but nevertheless want to sue the attorney for legal malpractice.
Practice pointer for lawyers: Treat your clients with genuine respect.
Practice pointer for clients: Find a lawyer who will treat you with genuine respect.