Dortch, Application of, No. 16

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtCHASANOW; RAKER, Judge, concurring, in which RODOWSKY
Citation687 A.2d 245,344 Md. 376
Docket NumberNo. 16
Decision Date01 September 1996
PartiesIn The Matter of the Application of John Curtis DORTCH for Admission to the Bar of Maryland. Misc.,

Page 376

344 Md. 376
687 A.2d 245
In The Matter of the Application of John Curtis DORTCH for
Admission to the Bar of Maryland.
Misc. No. 16, Sept. Term, 1996.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Jan. 6, 1997.

Page 377

Daniel A. Katz, Takoma Park, for Petitioner.

John Curtis Dortch, South Charleston, WV, pro se.

No argument on behalf of Respondent.

Argued before MURPHY, * C.J., and ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, CHASANOW, KARWACKI, BELL and RAKER, JJ.

CHASANOW, Judge.

In this case we are called upon to decide whether to approve a candidate's petition for admission to the Maryland Bar even though he was convicted of second degree murder and related attempted robbery offenses. We do not decide that issue today, however, because we hold that the candidate's petition for admission is premature. We wish to make it clear that a candidate for admission to the Maryland Bar who has been convicted of a crime that would clearly necessitate disbarment must have, as a threshold requirement, at least served his or her sentence and must have been released from parole supervision for the offense before this Court will even consider his or her application.

I.

In 1974, John Curtis Dortch masterminded a conspiracy to rob Columbia Federal Savings & Loan Association and assembled eight other people to help him to commit the crime. The robbery was scheduled to occur on September 20, 1974, and on

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that day Dortch and one co-conspirator, John W. Bryant, parked approximately two blocks away from the bank and proceeded down the street. Dortch and Bryant were dressed as construction workers, and Dortch was carrying two loaded handguns and two loaded sawed-off shotguns in a bricklayer's bag.

As the two conspirators approached the bank, two plain-clothed police officers sitting in a parked vehicle called out and asked the conspirators to walk over to the car. Dortch later learned that the police had been informed[687 A.2d 246] about the impending robbery by a conspirator who had backed out of the conspiracy the day before the robbery attempt. The officers asked Dortch to hand over his bag to them. As Dortch handed over the bag, with the shotguns in a breech position, an officer grabbed one of the guns. The gun accidentally discharged and injured Dortch's eye. Bryant and Dortch fled during the commotion.

Both men had been wearing civilian clothes under their construction-work clothes. Dortch fled to a nearby building to discard his disguise, and he escaped. Bryant was apprehended in a nearby parking garage while trying to remove his disguise. The apprehending officer was 24-year-old Gail Cobb, a police officer in the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. Cobb was alone with her revolver in her holster when Bryant, who had been standing with his hands against a wall, turned and shot Cobb in the heart. Cobb was one of the first female United States police officers to be killed in the line of duty. She was survived by a son.

Dortch was not present at the murder scene. He learned of Officer Cobb's murder sometime later that afternoon or evening from the WASHINGTON POST. Dortch quickly contacted an attorney and surrendered to the authorities. Dortch was charged with first degree felony murder, conspiracy to commit a felony and attempted armed robbery. Dortch later pled guilty to and was convicted of second degree murder, conspiracy to commit a felony and attempted armed robbery in the District of Columbia Superior Court. Dortch was sentenced

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to serve fifteen years to life imprisonment. Dortch served fifteen years. He was incarcerated in United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania from 1975-1981, in Federal Correctional Institution, Ray Brook, New York from 1981-1988 and in United States Penitentiary, Atlanta, Georgia, from 1988-1990.

Before 1974, Dortch had no criminal arrests or convictions. Dortch was born on July 19, 1945 in Beaufort, South Carolina. While in high school, Dortch was President of the Student Council and was a member of the National Honor Society. He was the captain of the varsity football team and of the varsity basketball team. Dortch also played trumpet in the marching band and sang in the school choir. He was graduated from high school in 1963.

Dortch attended Howard University and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, with a double minor in Government and Business, in 1968. He was also a member of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at Howard University. During the 1966-67 academic year, Dortch was selected as the outstanding cadet in his ROTC class and was designated a Distinguished Military Student. After graduation, Dortch was awarded a regular commission into the United States Army, and he volunteered to serve in Vietnam as an infantry officer. Dortch, who was injured while trying to save a fellow soldier in a firefight, earned several medals and honors during his brief military career. Dortch was medically retired and honorably discharged as a second lieutenant in 1969.

Dortch returned to the Washington, D.C. area after receiving his honorable discharge. He worked as a successful life insurance agent at the New York Life Insurance Company from 1969 until 1974. Dortch won many awards for his excellence in sales. Dortch was a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, and in one year, he led the Washington D.C. office in individual sales. In 1970, Dortch was elected President of the Mid-Atlantic Career Conference, and in 1971,

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he received a national sales achievement award from the National Association of Life Underwriters.

In February 1974, Dortch left New York Life and founded a small operational holding company, JCD Enterprises. JCD Enterprises was a partnership of several professionals with varying areas of expertise. For several reasons, JCD Enterprises became overextended and risked failure in its first year. The company's initial capitalization was exhausted quickly, in part because the 10-15 employees of JCD Enterprises received pre-paid commissions while they were in training. Also, the employees' sales never lived up to Dortch's expectations. Dortch made economic commitments on behalf of JCD Enterprises based upon his incorrect estimate of [687 A.2d 247] revenues. In addition, the United States, at the time, was experiencing "stagflation," rampant inflation combined with high unemployment, which was caused, in part, by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' oil embargo.

Twenty of Dortch's personal friends were investors in JCD Enterprises, and each stood to lose an investment of $5,000 if the business failed. Because Dortch felt that the investors had placed their trust and confidence in him, he felt obligated to protect their capital investments. Dortch made legitimate efforts to obtain a capital infusion from investment bankers to no avail. Dortch believed that his efforts were being thwarted by racists, a belief strengthened by his recent experiences in Vietnam. Dortch believed that his requests for a loan were not being satisfied because JCD Enterprises was founded by African-Americans to promote economic strength in African-American communities. Dortch admits now that the only correct course of action at the time would have been to declare corporate bankruptcy. Instead, Dortch led a conspiracy to commit the armed robbery that resulted in his imprisonment.

Dortch was a model prisoner. He was a clerk in the hospital records room from August 1975 to June 1976. Dortch was then transferred, at his request, to the central dental lab, a facility that served all of the inmates in Lewisburg prison. Dortch earned an Associate's degree in dental technology from

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Willamsport Area Community College and became a graduate assistant in the central dental lab. In April 1979, Dortch accepted a position as a clerk in the Chaplain's office, which paid considerably less than his position in the central dental lab. In the early 1980's, Dortch was hired as an accountant for UNICOR Federal Prison Industries, a 53 million dollar enterprise.

Dortch won several awards and a commendation while working at UNICOR. He was also featured in a local newspaper article that described him as one of the top five inmates working at UNICOR. Robert Mathews, a staff accountant at UNICOR who worked with Dortch, said of Dortch: "he is untiring in his willingness to help [others]," and "[h]e is respected and appreciated by both staff and inmates alike." Robert Nickerson, the business manager of UNICOR, who worked with Dortch daily for two years, said that Dortch was "very fair in his dealings with ... inmates and staff" and that he "always conducted himself in a most professional manner and treated everyone with respect." He described Dortch as "a person of honesty and integrity" and as "a great humanitarian."

Dortch's petition for parole was granted in March of 1990, the earliest eligibility date possible for someone convicted of his crimes. He was released from prison in April of 1990, the delay having been caused by the bureaucratic processing of paperwork. Since his release, Dortch has been on supervised parole, which requires him to file monthly written reports. He has successfully fulfilled all of his parole requirements. Dortch has had no criminal arrests or convictions since his conviction in 1975. Dortch has never petitioned the United States Parole Commission to be released from parole, but his parole officer, David A. Heard, took it upon himself to request that Dortch's parole status be changed to "unsupervised." The U.S. Parole Commission has not yet decided whether to grant Mr. Heard's request.

Upon his release from prison, Dortch began work as Business Administrator at Covenant Baptist Church. Dortch computerized

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Covenant's accounting system and monitored the church's compliance with its annual budget of $250,000. He also began teaching adult Bible classes at Covenant. Dortch worked at Covenant full time until he...

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8 practice notes
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    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
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    ...would be ineligible to apply for registration until two years after completion of any sentence and probation or parole. See In re Dortch, 687 A.2d 245 (Md. 1997); Seide v. Committee of Bar Examiners (Calif.), 782 P.2d 602 (Cal. 1989). The individual would have to pay the fee required by Sec......
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    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
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    ...would be ineligible to apply for registration until two years after completion of any sentence and probation or parole. See In re Dortch, 687 A.2d 245 (Md. 1997); Seide v. Committee of Bar Examiners (Calif.), 782 P.2d 602 (Cal. 1989). The individual would have to pay the fee required by Sec......
  • Admission of Brown, Misc. Docket No. 10 September Term, 2005.
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    • April 11, 2006
    ...establishing present good character by requiring convincing proof of his full and complete rehabilitation." In re Application of Dortch, 344 Md. 376, 387, 687 A.2d 245, 250 (1997) (quoting Application of Allan S., 282 Md. at 690, 387 A.2d at 275). Factors considered when an applicant presen......
  • Application of Strzempek, Misc. Docket No. 2 Sept. Term 2008.
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    ...354 Md. 329, 731 A.2d 438 (1999)(order only); Application of Vann, 349 Md. 101, 707 A.2d 87 (1998)(order only); Application of Dortch, 344 Md. 376, 687 A.2d 245 (1997)(order only); Application of J.L.L., 304 Md. 394, 499 A.2d 935 (1985)(order only); Application of George B., 297 Md. 421, 46......
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6 cases
  • Admission of Brown, Misc. Docket No. 10 September Term, 2005.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 11, 2006
    ...establishing present good character by requiring convincing proof of his full and complete rehabilitation." In re Application of Dortch, 344 Md. 376, 387, 687 A.2d 245, 250 (1997) (quoting Application of Allan S., 282 Md. at 690, 387 A.2d at 275). Factors considered when an applicant presen......
  • Application of Strzempek, Misc. Docket No. 2 Sept. Term 2008.
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    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 30, 2008
    ...354 Md. 329, 731 A.2d 438 (1999)(order only); Application of Vann, 349 Md. 101, 707 A.2d 87 (1998)(order only); Application of Dortch, 344 Md. 376, 687 A.2d 245 (1997)(order only); Application of J.L.L., 304 Md. 394, 499 A.2d 935 (1985)(order only); Application of George B., 297 Md. 421, 46......
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