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   Dear Fellow Members:

    Below you will find a link to an online copy of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct. We have provided this link in hopes of making your search for answers to your legal ethics questions easier. As always, if you need additional guidance, please do not hesitate to call the Legal Ethics Committee hotline at the number listed in the current issue of your bar newsletter.

         MD Rules of Professional Conduct


Legal Ethics Hotline Volunteers ... March
Ronald Canter ... 301-943-6111 ...
David Gavin ... 301-279-2700 ...


Legal Ethics Hotline Volunteers ... April
J. Bradford McCullough ... 301-657-0734 ...


The Importance of Diligence and Attempting to Correct Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, even the best and most ethical attorneys.  However, it is critical to carefully evaluate all actions to discover whether a mistake has occurred and, if an attorney determines that a mistake has been made, act promptly and directly to attempt to correct the mistake as much as possible.

Recently, in 456 MD.483(2017), Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Woolery, Misc. Docket AG, an attorney was reprimanded for making the mistake of selling an estate’s expensive tractor (valued at $10,000) for $500 while having been appointed the personal representative of the estate.  While the Court acknowledged that the actions taken by the attorney in selling the tractor for far less than its value was indeed a mistake, the Court stressed two reasons why the attorney violated MLRPC 1.1, 1.3, 8.4(a) & (d) and was reprimanded for his actions. Id.

The Court stated that a reprimand was appropriate not merely because a mistake was made by the attorney (the attorney failed to ascertain the ownership or approximate value of the tractor prior to selling it), but because when “promptly informed of the tractor's ownership and value,” the attorney failed to attempt to “rectify his error.”. Id.  Thus, it is likely that if the attorney in question had merely acted to rectify the mistake immediately upon being informed of the problem, the attorney might have avoided a professional conduct violation.

In another case, Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Walker–Turner, 428 Md. 214, 51 A.3d 553 (2012), an attorney was reprimanded for making the mistake of not appearing for a trial while being outside the courtroom on the phone with his client.  In this case, the Court acknowledge that mistakes – such as being in the wrong area of the courthouse – happen.  However, the Court expressed concern that nothing was done by the attorney after learning that his case had been called (and that he had failed to appear).  The Court stated, in part, that sanctions were appropriate because, “[h]ad [the attorney] acted earlier to confirm what happened in the courtroom when the case was called and he was not present on 26, January 2007, he and his clients would have been spared the consequences that followed.”  The Court expressed that “These actions show a lack of diligence in his representation of his clients and, thus, violate MLRPC 1.3.” Id. at 228.  Rather, upon realizing his mistake, instead of acting to rectify the mistake with the Court, the attorney assumed the problem would merely resolve itself.  If the attorney had acted instantly to correct his mistake on the day of trial, the attorney may have been spared a professional conduct violation finding.

In another recent case, Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Slate, Misc. 2018 Md.Lexis 106, Docket AG No. 5, _____ Md. App. ____ (March 2, 2018), an attorney was sanctioned for failing to disclose certain information related to past civil litigation actions during the bar application process.  In this case, the attorney clearly made a mistake by not including certain information within his bar application.  However, when the attorney was provided with multiple opportunities to rectify the mistake, the attorney failed to do so.  In fact, when confronted with possible missing information, the Court noted that the attorney compounded the problem by “falsely affirm[ing] under oath that all of the facts in his bar application remained correct,” “not supplement[ing] his bar application with the trial court's opinions or the findings therein,” not “disclos[ing] the trial court's opinions or the findings therein during the character interview, and not “disclos[ing] the information during a meeting with the co-chairs of the Character Committee for the Fourth Appellate Judicial Circuit ("the Character Committee").” Id.  Succinctly, the attorney failed to correct his bar application mistake.  The Court concluded that the violation finding was not “because he merely made a ‘mistake,’” but rather because of the attorney’s continued “concealment” of the information that was left out of the attorney’s application. Id.

Timely actions to correct a professional responsibility mistake are important.  Not only could such immediate corrective actions eliminate a MLRPC violation in its entirety; but such actions are also mitigating factors in determining sanctions for a MLRPC violation.  See Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Reno, 440 Md. 414, 103 A.3d 565 (2014) (“Mitigating factors include . . . timely good faith efforts to make restitution or to rectify consequences of the misconduct.”).

Ultimately, in legal practice, as in any profession, mistake happen.  However, prompt and direct actions to attempt to correct any mistake are important for both possibly avoiding the determination of a professional conduct violation and/or determining the severity of the sanctions if a violation is found.

Adam Van Grack, Esquire
Samuel M. Shapiro, Esquire
P. David Gavin, Esquire
Allen J. Katz, Esquire


P. David Gavin
Allen J. Katz

Samuel M. Shapiro



April 19, 2018
May 17, 2018

Meetings will be held on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 4:30PM in the upstairs conference room of the Bar Association building, unless otherwise noted.