Attorney Grievance Com'n of Maryland v. Gilbert

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtMURPHY; In so concluding; In his factual findings
Citation515 A.2d 454,307 Md. 481
Decision Date06 October 1986
PartiesATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND v. James Henry GILBERT. 6 Sept. Term 1985.

Page 481

307 Md. 481
515 A.2d 454
ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
James Henry GILBERT.
6 Sept. Term 1985.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Oct. 6, 1986.
Motion for Reconsideration Denied Nov. 21, 1986.

[515 A.2d 455]

Page 483

Melvin Hirshman, Bar Counsel and Glenn M. Grossman, Asst. Bar Counsel for Atty. Grievance Com'n of Maryland, Annapolis, for petitioner.

James Henry Gilbert, Baltimore, pro se.

Argued March 5, 1986, before MURPHY, C.J., and SMITH, ELDRIDGE, COLE, RODOWSKY, COUCH and McAULIFFE, JJ.

Reargued Sept. 8, 1986, before MURPHY, C.J., and ELDRIDGE, COLE, RODOWSKY, COUCH, McAULIFFE and ADKINS, JJ.

MURPHY, Chief Judge.

This case involves a petition for disciplinary action filed by the Attorney Grievance Commission against James Gilbert, a member of the Maryland Bar since 1983. The Commission seeks Gilbert's disbarment for a claimed violation of DR 1-101(A) and DR 1-102(A)(1) and (4) due to his alleged intentional failure to disclose a material fact in his 1980 application for registration as a candidate for admission to the Maryland Bar. 1 Specifically, the nondisclosure was of a civil suit filed by Gilbert in which he unsuccessfully sought, as beneficiary, to recover the proceeds of several

Page 484

life insurance policies procured by him on his deceased wife's life three months prior to her murder.

I.

Prior to his admission to the Maryland Bar, Gilbert was involved in a series of criminal incidents, all of which occurred over a six-month period in 1967. As a result, he was charged with conspiracy to commit forgery, forgery and uttering, murder and accessory to commit murder, homicide and assault. He pled nolo contendere to the charge of conspiracy to commit forgery for which in 1968 he received a suspended sentence. He was found guilty of six counts of forgery and uttering arising out of the use of a misappropriated credit card and received a sentence of twenty months to five years incarceration. Shortly after his enrollment in law school, he was arrested on murder and aggravated assault charges arising out of a Halloween night stabbing of a gas station attendant by one of his companions. Gilbert was found not guilty of these offenses; subsequently, he pled nolo contendere to simple assault for which he received a suspended sentence. During this same period in 1967, Gilbert was arrested for murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the murder of his wife on June 4, 1967. He was indicted for these offenses, along with his sister, on March 13, 1969. The charges against Gilbert were nol prossed on June 24, 1974, following his sister's acquittal on March 13, 1972.

Gilbert was initially incarcerated without bond until December 1967 and was later imprisoned for twenty-one months from November 1970 to August 1972 upon his convictions for forgery and uttering. As a result, he was unable to continue law school. He resumed his law school studies after his release from incarceration and graduated in 1980. He completed his application for admission to the Bar of Maryland on May 20, 1980. On May 29, 1980, Gilbert filed a petition for the expungement of all records associated with the nol prossed indictment for his wife's murder. The petition was granted on June 23, 1980. Gilbert

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successfully passed the July 1980 Bar Examination. Thereafter, the character investigation process was initiated to determine Gilbert's present moral character fitness for admission to the Maryland Bar.

[515 A.2d 456] The Character Committee of the Third Judicial Circuit held a hearing on October 21, 1980 to determine whether Gilbert currently possessed the requisite moral character to justify his admission to the Bar. See Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar. The Committee unanimously recommended to the State Board of Law Examiners that Gilbert be denied admission. As authorized by Rule 4 c, the Board conducted its own evidentiary hearing on November 2, 1981; by a 3-2 vote, it concluded that Gilbert had demonstrated his present moral character fitness and recommended that he be admitted.

We considered the matter at a hearing "upon the records made by the Character Committee and the Board." Rule 4c. A divided Court ordered Gilbert's admission after concluding that the evidence was clear and convincing that he was completely rehabilitated and presently possessed good moral character. See In re Application of James G., 296 Md. 310, 462 A.2d 1198 (1983). In so concluding, we were conscious of Gilbert's difficult life experiences, including the continuous conflict between his parents that culminated in their separation; the birth of a Downs Syndrone child during his first marriage in 1964; and the fact that his first wife had been the victim of a murder in 1967. In arriving at our evaluation of Gilbert's present moral character, we took into consideration the nature of the offenses for which he was convicted; that all his criminal offenses occurred within a six-month period; that the murder charge involving his wife's death was nol prossed; that sixteen years had since passed; that Gilbert had been admitted to the Bar of the District of Columbia in 1981 and had performed as a lawyer without any negative incidents; and that although Gilbert's crimes were serious and involved moral turpitude, he candidly and "readily admitted his responsibility for and his participation in the crimes in which he was involved and

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his remorse is fully evident and genuine." 296 Md. at 316, 462 A.2d 1198.

Shortly after his admission to the Maryland Bar, Gilbert's involvement as a plaintiff in a civil suit, not disclosed on his admission application, came to the attention of the Attorney Grievance Commission. That suit was filed by Gilbert on June 4, 1970 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County to recover $110,000, representing the proceeds from two insurance policies which Gilbert had obtained insuring his wife's life. The insurer had declined to pay the proceeds to Gilbert as beneficiary, contending that he was not entitled to them because he had intentionally caused the death of his wife. At the conclusion of an evidentiary non-jury trial on November 10, 1970, Judge Kenneth C. Proctor denied Gilbert's claim to the proceeds, finding that "the evidence is overwhelming that [Gilbert] intentionally caused the death of his wife in order to reap the harvest, namely, the proceeds of these two life insurance policies, so that he could live, according to his light, happily ever after."

In so concluding, Judge Proctor related in an oral opinion that the evidence showed that three months before his wife's murder, Gilbert obtained the two policies insuring his wife's life. The murder took place at a tourist home operated by Gilbert and his wife. According to Gilbert's sister, Janet, the door buzzer sounded that night and she answered. At the door was a man with a knife. He followed Janet upstairs to where Gilbert's wife was watching television. Gilbert was not then present. The intruder forced Gilbert's wife into another room, demanded money from her and then, almost immediately, shot her with a gun which Gilbert and his wife had purchased the day prior to the crime. According to Janet, she picked up the gun and shot at the assailant, who escaped.

Judge Proctor deemed it suspicious that Janet's fingerprints were not found on the murder gun. He expressed concern that there was no explanation as to how the murderer obtained possession of the gun; that while the murderer

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demanded money, he immediately shot the victim without any [515 A.2d 457] further attempt to complete a robbery; that Janet waited a substantial time before calling the police; and that Gilbert inexplicably called home at 2:00 A.M.--about an hour after the police arrived on the scene--from his employer's home where he had spent the evening.

Judge Proctor noted that there was testimony from Gilbert's employer that Gilbert told him he paid $5,000 to have his wife killed. There was evidence tending to corroborate this testimony from police witnesses who overheard an incriminating conversation between Gilbert and his employer while on a stakeout at the employer's home.

In completing his application to the Maryland Bar, Gilbert did not mention this civil suit despite the fact that Question 10 of the admission application required the following information:

"a complete list of all suits in equity, actions at law, suits in bankruptcy or other statutory proceedings, matters in probate, lunacy, guardianship, and every other judicial or administrative proceedings of every nature and kind, except criminal proceedings, to which I am or have ever been a party: (If 'None' so state)."

Gilbert answered "None" to this question.

II.

Following an evidentiary hearing before an Inquiry Panel, and upon the recommendation of the Review Board, the Attorney Grievance Commission filed its petition for disciplinary action on April 9, 1985, averring that Gilbert had intentionally failed to disclose a material fact by his negative answer to Question 10 of the admission application, and that he thereby violated the previously quoted disciplinary rules. We referred the matter pursuant to Maryland Rule BV9 b to Judge Raymond G. Thieme, Jr. of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. After two evidentiary hearings, Judge Thieme filed extensive factual findings, concluding that Gilbert had intentionally failed to disclose the civil suit; that the information thereby withheld was of

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material fact; that the Character Committee, the State Board of Law Examiners, and this Court were deliberately deprived of material information; and that Gilbert had thereby violated DR 1-101(A) and DR 1-102(A)(1) and (4).

Gilbert has taken exception to Judge Thieme's finding that he intentionally failed to disclose the Bankers Life litigation. Specifically, he objects to Judge Thieme's finding that he largely completed his application on May 17,...

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21 practice notes
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Kepple, Misc. Docket AG No. 55
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 21 Junio 2013
    ...137, 158 (2011); Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Joehl, 335 Md. 83, 642 A.2d 194 (1994); Keehan, 311 Md. 161, 533 A.2d 278 (1987); Gilbert, 307 Md. 481, 515 A.2d 454 (1986). But see Vance, 273 Md. at 84–85, 327 A.2d at 770 (imposing a ninety-day suspension for an act of intentional dishonesty)......
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Kepple, Misc. Docket AG No. 55
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 21 Junio 2013
    ...A.3d 158 (2011); Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Joehl, 335 Md. 83, 642 A.2d 194 (1994); Keehan, 311 Md. 161, 533 A.2d 278 (1987); Gilbert, 307 Md. 481, 515 A.2d 454 (1986). But see Vance, 273 Md. at 84-85, 327 A.2d at 770 (imposing a ninety-day suspension for an act of intentional dishonesty)......
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Thomas-Bellamy, Misc. Docket No. AG 7, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 22 Noviembre 2016
    ...dishonest misrepresentation on a bar application may warrant the extreme sanction of disbarment.” Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Gilbert , 307 Md. 481, 498, 515 A.2d 454 (1986). There is not a one-size-fits-all disposition that is unrelated to the facts of the particular case. We must locate ......
  • Legg, Matter of, No. 168A89
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 7 Diciembre 1989
    ...of inhibiting the efforts of the bar to determine an applicant's fitness to practice law.' " Attorney Grievance Commission v. Gilbert, 307 Md. 481, 492, 515 A.2d 454, 459 (1986) (quoting Matter of Howe, 257 N.W.2d 420, 422 (N.D.1977)). Like misrepresentations, evasive responses and misleadi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Kepple, Misc. Docket AG No. 55
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 21 Junio 2013
    ...137, 158 (2011); Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Joehl, 335 Md. 83, 642 A.2d 194 (1994); Keehan, 311 Md. 161, 533 A.2d 278 (1987); Gilbert, 307 Md. 481, 515 A.2d 454 (1986). But see Vance, 273 Md. at 84–85, 327 A.2d at 770 (imposing a ninety-day suspension for an act of intentional dishonesty)......
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Kepple, Misc. Docket AG No. 55
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 21 Junio 2013
    ...A.3d 158 (2011); Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Joehl, 335 Md. 83, 642 A.2d 194 (1994); Keehan, 311 Md. 161, 533 A.2d 278 (1987); Gilbert, 307 Md. 481, 515 A.2d 454 (1986). But see Vance, 273 Md. at 84-85, 327 A.2d at 770 (imposing a ninety-day suspension for an act of intentional dishonesty)......
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Thomas-Bellamy, Misc. Docket No. AG 7, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 22 Noviembre 2016
    ...dishonest misrepresentation on a bar application may warrant the extreme sanction of disbarment.” Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Gilbert , 307 Md. 481, 498, 515 A.2d 454 (1986). There is not a one-size-fits-all disposition that is unrelated to the facts of the particular case. We must locate ......
  • Legg, Matter of, No. 168A89
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 7 Diciembre 1989
    ...of inhibiting the efforts of the bar to determine an applicant's fitness to practice law.' " Attorney Grievance Commission v. Gilbert, 307 Md. 481, 492, 515 A.2d 454, 459 (1986) (quoting Matter of Howe, 257 N.W.2d 420, 422 (N.D.1977)). Like misrepresentations, evasive responses and misleadi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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