Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Collins

Citation477 Md. 482,270 A.3d 917
Decision Date25 February 2022
Docket NumberMisc. Docket AG No. 6, Sept. Term, 2021
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

477 Md. 482
270 A.3d 917

Natalie Thryphenia COLLINS

Misc. Docket AG No. 6, Sept. Term, 2021

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

February 25, 2022

Argued by Jessica B. McCully, Sr. Asst. Bar Counsel, Lydia E. Lawless, Bar Counsel (Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland), for Petitioner.

No response on behalf of the Respondent.

Getty, C.J.,* McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Booth, Biran, Gould, JJ.

Watts, J.

477 Md. 487

Natalie Thryphenia Collins, Respondent, a member of the Bar of Maryland, was admitted to the Bar in 1991 and from October 2019 to mid-June 2020 worked at a law firm on Ingleside Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland. On June 8, 2020, in an unrelated disciplinary matter, this Court suspended Collins from the practice of law in Maryland for sixty days, effective July 8, 2020, and ordered that she pay court costs. On September 10, 2020, Collins filed in this Court a petition for reinstatement pursuant to Maryland Rule 19-751 stating that she had complied with her obligations under former Maryland Rule 19-742 (now Maryland Rule 19-741) and the requirements and conditions of her suspension, and that to the best of her "knowledge, information, and belief" no complaints were pending against her. Between June 8, 2020, the effective date of her suspension, and September 10, 2020, the date that she filed the petition for reinstatement, Collins had not provided any information to Bar Counsel under Maryland Rule 19-742. In addition, Collins had not paid court costs.

On March 20, 2020, C.J. Irving filed a complaint against Collins with Bar Counsel. Irving had been a party to a child custody case in which Collins represented the children's other parent. Collins did not respond to requests from Bar Counsel for information during the investigation of the Irving complaint and represented in the petition for reinstatement that no complaints were pending against her.

On April 21, 2021, on behalf of the Attorney Grievance Commission, Petitioner, Bar Counsel filed a "Petition for Disciplinary or Remedial Action" against Collins, charging her with violating Maryland Attorneys’

477 Md. 488

Rules of Professional Conduct ("MARPC") 3.3(a)(1) (Candor Toward the Tribunal), 4.1(a)(1) (False Statement to Third Person), 8.1(a) (False Statement of Material Fact), 8.1(b) (Failing to Respond to Lawful Demand for Information), 8.4(b) (Criminal Act), 8.4(c) (Dishonesty, Fraud, Deceit, or Misrepresentation), 8.4(d) (Conduct that is Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice), and 8.4(a) (Violating the

270 A.3d 921

MARPC).1 The charges stemmed from two grounds.

First, based on the Irving complaint, Bar Counsel asserted that Collins engaged in misconduct during a telephone call with Irving. Specifically, Bar Counsel alleged that on June 13, 2018, Irving, who was represented by counsel, filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County a complaint to modify custody against C. Davis, the father of her two minor daughters. Collins entered her appearance as counsel for Davis and filed an answer and other papers on his behalf. On May 9, 2019, the circuit court entered an emergency order for child access, returning the children to the primary physical custody of Davis and providing for Irving to have supervised access. On October 23, 2019, the circuit court entered a consent order for temporary child access, providing Irving with visitation. On November 6, 2019, the circuit court granted a motion by Irving's counsel to withdraw her appearance. On January 22, 2020, the circuit court entered an order granting joint legal and physical custody of the children as specified.

According to the allegations in the petition, at some point after the January 22, 2020 award of custody, Collins telephoned Irving and "falsely identified" herself as calling from an elementary school about an issue with one of Irving's children. Irving allegedly provided Collins with personal information, believing that she was speaking with a school employee, before Collins "confessed to being ‘opposing counsel.’ " Bar

477 Md. 489

Counsel charged that Collins engaged in dishonest conduct because, in the telephone call with Irving, she allegedly initially identified herself as associated with Irving's child's school, but later acknowledged that she was Davis's attorney.

In the petition, Bar Counsel did not indicate that Irving's report of the telephone call had been corroborated in any way or refer to any investigation of Irving's complaint other than correspondence that Bar Counsel sent to Collins that went unanswered. Also, the petition did not indicate that there were any ongoing proceedings between Irving and Davis at the time of the alleged telephone call or provide any reason for the call. When the case was called for oral argument, in response to a question from this Court about the disposition of the Irving complaint, Senior Assistant Bar Counsel stated that the allegations in the petition concerning the Irving complaint were dismissed by Bar Counsel before the evidentiary hearing for "a number of reasons."2

In the petition, Bar Counsel asserted that Collins had failed to respond to correspondence sent to her requesting a response to the Irving complaint. Bar Counsel did not dismiss this aspect of the petition.

270 A.3d 922

Next, in the petition, Bar Counsel alleged that, in a petition for reinstatement, signed under the penalties of perjury, Collins falsely represented that she had complied with the requirements of Maryland Rule 19-742, that she had satisfied the requirements and conditions of her suspension, and that, to the best of her "knowledge, information, and belief," she did not have any complaints or disciplinary proceedings pending against her.

477 Md. 490

On April 23, 2021, we designated the Honorable Julie R. Rubin ("the hearing judge") of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City to hear this attorney discipline proceeding. On July 2, 2021, Collins filed an answer to the petition. Bar Counsel filed notices of service of discovery material, stating that Bar Counsel had served Collins with interrogatories, a request for admission of fact and genuineness of documents, a request for production of documents, and a notice of deposition. On July 30, 2021, Bar Counsel filed a motion for sanctions and a motion to shorten time based on Collins's failure to respond to the request for production of documents and failure to appear at a properly noticed deposition. Collins did not respond to the motion. On August 18, 2021, the hearing judge granted in part and denied in part the motion for sanctions. The hearing judge precluded Collins from calling witnesses or presenting documents as evidence on her behalf at the disciplinary hearing and precluded Collins from testifying at the hearing except as to mitigation.3

On August 23, 2021, the hearing judge conducted a hearing, at which Bar Counsel introduced thirty exhibits into evidence.4 Collins appeared at the hearing and testified as to mitigation. On September 14, 2021, the hearing judge issued an opinion including findings of fact and conclusions of law, concluding that Collins had violated MARPC 3.3(a)(1), 8.1(a), 8.1(b), 8.4(b), 8.4(c), 8.4(d), and 8.4(a). The hearing judge also found that Bar Counsel established the existence of numerous aggravating factors, and that Collins failed to establish the existence of any mitigating factors.

Oral argument in this Court was scheduled on January 11, 2022, and Collins failed to appear.5 For the below reasons, we

477 Md. 491

indefinitely suspend Collins from the practice of law in Maryland.


The hearing judge found the following facts, which we summarize.

On June 20, 1991, this Court admitted Collins to the Bar of Maryland. From October 2019 to approximately June 15, 2020, Collins was employed by the Franklin Law Group. At all relevant times, Collins maintained the following contact information on file with Maryland's Attorney Information System ("AIS"): (1) a business address located at the Franklin Law Group on Ingleside Avenue; (2) a personal address located on St. Paul Street in Baltimore; (3) an alternative address of a P.O. Box in Towson; (4) a business e-mail address at Franklin Law Group; and (5) a personal e-mail address at In January 2020, Collins used her personal Yahoo e-mail

270 A.3d 923

address to communicate with Bar Counsel about an unrelated disciplinary matter. Collins had used the P.O. Box to receive correspondence in the unrelated disciplinary matter. At the disciplinary hearing, Collins testified in mitigation that she maintained the Yahoo e-mail address until June 2020 and forwarded e-mails she received at that address to her work e-mail address at the Franklin Law Group.

Bar Counsel's Communications with Collins Concerning the Irving Complaint

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27 cases
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Bonner, Misc. Docket AG No. 51, Sept. Term, 2020
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 3, 2022
    ..., the standards announced in that case have been considered and discussed in numerous cases. Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Collins , 477 Md. 482, 270 A.3d 917 (filed Feb. 25, 2022). In fact, it is not surprising that our decision in this case coincides with our decision in Collins , which di......
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. White, Misc. Docket AG No. 7, Sept. Term, 2021
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • August 12, 2022
    ...a hearing judge's findings of facts against the clearly erroneous standard. Md. R. 19-740(b)(2)(B); Att'y Grievance Comm'n v. Collins , 477 Md. 482, 495, 270 A.3d 917 (2022). This Court reviews de novo all conclusions of law, Md. R. 19-740(b)(1), and Petitioner bears the burden of establish......
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    • May 26, 2022
    ...the standard for determining the sanction in cases 276 A.3d 72 involving dishonest conduct.16 See Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Collins , 477 Md. 482, 270 A.3d 917 (2022) and Bonner , 477 Md. 576, 271 A.3d 249. In Collins , we examined our sanctions jurisprudence involving intentional dishon......
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    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • December 16, 2022
    ...(finding that dishonesty alone could be the basis for disbarment). In our recent decision in Attorney Grievance Commission v. Collins, 477 Md. 482, 529-30 (2022), we reexamined when intentional dishonest conduct warrants disbarment under the standard set forth in Vanderlinde, 364 Md. at 376......
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