In Re Meyerson., 145.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtMARKELL, Judge.
Citation59 A.2d 489
PartiesIn re MEYERSON.
Docket NumberNo. 145.,145.
Decision Date27 May 1948


Appeal from Supreme Bench of Baltimore City.

Proceeding in the matter of Bernard Meyerson for reinstatement after disbarment. From an order denying the application, the applicant appeals.


Bernard M. Goldstein, of Baltimore, for appellant.

William R. Semans and Paul F. Due, both of Baltimore, for appellee.



This is an appeal from an order of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City denying an application of a disbarred lawyer for reinstatement. Code 1909, Art. 10, secs. 22, 17.

Whether the Legislature could compel the courts to reinstate a pardoned convict or any other disbarred lawyer if he is not in fact a proper person to be permitted to practice, is a question not presented. The Act of 1937, ch. 370, (Art. 10, sec. 22) purports to require reinstatement only if the court shall be satisfied that the applicant is ‘worthy of reinstatement.’ Art. 10, sec. 3, authorizes admission to practice only if this court shall find the applicant ‘to be of good moral character and worthy to be admitted;’ this court shall prescribe ‘generally such * * * rules as may be necessary or convenient to carry out the provisions of this section.’ This court has prescribed rules providing, among other things, for Character Committees to investigate each applicant's ‘moral character qualification for Bar membership’ and to make ‘their recommendation as to the character and fitness of the applicant to be admitted to the Bar’. The requirements that an applicant for original admission to practice shall be ‘of good moral character and worthy to be admitted’ and an applicant for reinstatement after disbarment shall be ‘worthy of reinstatement’ are expressions of the same principles with respect to different facts, which require different evidence. Both are the converse of the statutory grounds of disbarment, ‘professional misconduct, malpractice, fraud, deceit, crime involving moral turpitude or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice’. Art. 10, secs. 16, 17. In all these respects, ‘the statute has done but little, if anything, more than enact the general rules upon which the courts of common law have always acted.’ Ex parte Secombe, 19 How. 9, 14, 15 L.Ed. 565 (per Taney, C. J), quoted in Rheb v. Bar Association of Baltimore, 186 Md. 200, 203, 204, 46 A.2d 289, 291.

‘The question is whether, after the conduct of this man, it is proper that he should continue a member of a profession which should stand free from all suspicion. * * * It is not by way of punishment; but the court, in such cases, exercise their discretion whether a man whom they have formerly admitted is a proper person to be continued on the roll or not.’ Ex parte Brownsall, 1778, 2 Cowp. 829 (Lord Mansfield), quoted in Ex parte Wall, 107 U.S. 265, 273, 2 S.Ct. 569, 27 L.Ed. 552, and in Rheb v. Bar Association of Baltimore, supra, 186 Md. at page 205, 46 A.2d 289, 291. The requirement that an applicant for admission be of ‘good moral character’, and the fact that of the six statutory grounds of disbarment only the first two (tautological) grounds are limited to professional, as distinguished from personal offenses, illustrate the breadth of Lord Mansfield's statement and of the later authorities applying various statutory provisions which are elaborations of his brief statement. The next three grounds of disbarment indicate lack of ‘good moral character’, necessary to be ‘worthy to be admitted’ not mere ‘indulgence in what might be termed the minor vices, of a purely personal character’, which ‘does not amount to professional misconduct’. Rheb v. Bar Association of Baltimore, supra, 186 Md. at page 204, 46 A.2d 289. ‘Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice’ may include a criminal offense which impairs the basic objects of a lawyer's profession, though not committed in his professional capacity, and though he has not been convicted or indicted, e. g., lynching. Ex parte Wall, 107 U.S. 265, 2 S.Ct. 569, 27 L.Ed. 552.

Appellant cites cases from many jurisdictions, as holding that disbarment does not in all circumstances forever prevent reinstatement under inherent or statutory powers of the courts. We see no reason to question this generalization. In some jurisdictions it is held that on a proper showing a disbarment order may be set aside; in some, that this cannot be done but reinstatement may be effected as a new admission to practice (In re Boone, C.C., 90 F. 793) and may even be subject to procedural requirements (e. g., reference to committees or bar examinations) of an original application for admission. In re Keenan, Petitioner, 310 Mass. 166, 37 N.E.2d 516, 137 A.L.R. 766; State v. Gowland, 174 La. 351, 140 So. 500; In re Stevens, 59 Cal.App. 251, 210 P. 442. In Maryland, by statute, original applications are made to this court. Art. 10, sec. 2. Under the Act of 1937 application for reinstatement must be made to the court which issued the disbarment order, and ‘the provisions * * * relating to hearing and appeals in proceedings for * * * disbarment shall be applicable to proceedings for reinstatement * * *’. The Act of 1937 is applicable only to pardoned convicts, but by implication, we think, the same procedure is applicable to other disbarred lawyers. In the absence of any rule on the subject under Art. IV, section 18A of the Constitution (effective January 1, 1945), we have no doubt as to the validity or application of these different provisions for original applications and applications for reinstatement. It is not inconsistent for original applications for admission, usually uncontested, to be made to this court and disbarment and reinstatement proceedings to be conducted in the local courts. The provision for hearing in open court and the opportunity of the judges (some of whom may have heard the disbarment proceedings) to see and hear the witnesses is a substitute for reference of an application for reinstatement to the State Board of Law Examiners and the Character Committee, and gives weight on appeal to the decision of the lower court.

Whether an application for reinstatement is called an application to set aside a disbarment order or an application for admission to practice, its essential nature is the same. ‘A subsequent petition for admission to the bar involves a new inquiry as to whether, in the interval following the rendering of the judgment of removal, the petitioner has become a proper person to hold such office.’ In re Keenan, Petitioner, supra, 310 Mass. at page 170, 37 N.E.2d at page 519. Such an inquiry is directed to the facts of the particular case, but seems to be approached in a somewhat different attitude in different jurisdictions. In re Stump, 272 Ky. 593, 597, 114 S.W.2d 1094, 1096, the court classified the many decisions as establishing three rules, a ‘lax rule’, a ‘strict rule’, and a ‘reasonable middle rule.’ It would serve no useful purpose to review the multitude of cases in different jurisdictions. Some cases, we think, do reflect a ‘lax rule’ which is not consistent with the principles, regarding admission and disbarment, shortly stated by Lord Mansfield, expanded in the Maryland statutes and applied in rules of this court and in decisions of this court and the Supreme Court. As disbarment is not punishment, likewise we think due regard for the administration of justice does not permit disbarment and reinstatement to be made mere adjuncts to reform schools and the parole system. The authorities that seem to us the best considered take a different view, which is consistent with the principles recognized in Maryland.

In Matter of Kaufmann, 245 N.Y. 423, 427, 157 N.E. 730, 731, it was held that after a lawyer, automatically disbarred upon conviction of a felony (in that case, conspiracy against the United States), has been pardoned, he may, if he can, upon application for reinstatement, prove his innocence of the crime of which he was convicted.

Chief Judge Cardozo said: ‘Precedents cited to the contrary hold no more than this, that reinstatement will not follow automatically from pardon without more. People ex rel. Johnson v. George, 186 Ill. 122, 57 N.E. 804. There must be convincing proof of innocence before pardon will restore to the fellowship of the bar. Even innocence of crime will not suffice if there has been a failure to live up to the standards of morality and honor. Pardon does no more than open the door to an inquiry that would otherwise be barred. That much, however, it does.’ 245 N.Y. at page 430, 157 N.E. at page 733. It was apparently undisputed that nothing short of innocence of the particular crime involved in that case would justify reinstatement. Attorney General (later Chief Justice) Stone's recommendation of pardon to the President was based on belief in innocence. In the same case Judge Cardozo also said: ‘No doubt the attorney seeking reinstatement has the burden of satisfying the court of his fitness to be restored to so honorable a fellowship. For the welfare and repute of the profession the order of disbarment stands until the presumption of its correctness has been persuasively rebutted.’ 245 N.Y. at pages 428, 429, 157 N.E. at page 732. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has recently said: ‘A judgment of removal of a person from his office of attorney at law does not have the effect merely of removing him. It amounts also to an adjudication of the facts upon which the removal was based. While the judgment remains unreversed the adjudication of facts stands against the person removed. It is evidence against him upon his subsequent petition for admission to the bar. [Citing cases.] It is conclusive evidence of his lack of moral character at the time of his removal from office. And it continues to be evidence against him with respect to lack of moral character...

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  • Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Walman
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • June 9, 1977 opinion by then Judge Cardozo; Balliet v. Balto. Co. Bar Ass'n, 259 Md. 474, 478, 270 A.2d 465 (1970); and In re Meyerson, 190 Md. 671, 675-76, 59 A.2d 489 (1948), to name but a few. It was more succinctly put by Judge Singley for the Court in Posner when he said that "the purpose of the......
  • Braverman, In re
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    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • March 1, 1974
    ...fully argue the merits of the petition for reinstatement to determine whether, in light of the principles articulated in In re Meyerson, 190 Md. 671, 59 A.2d 489 (1948) and Maryland State Bar Association v. Boone, 255 Md. 420, 258 A.2d 438 (1969), Braverman had in the period following the r......
  • Hallinan v. Committee of Bar Examiners of State Bar, S.F. 22295
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    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 15, 1966
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