In re R.M.W, Misc. Case No. 05 MC 409.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Writing for the CourtMessitte
Citation486 F.Supp.2d 518
PartiesIn The Matter of R.M.W.
Decision Date04 May 2007
Docket NumberMisc. Case No. 05 MC 409.
486 F.Supp.2d 518
In The Matter of R.M.W.
Misc. Case No. 05 MC 409.
United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division.
May 4, 2007.

G. Stewart Webb, Jr., Esquire, Baltimore, Maryland, Investigating Attorney.

Before MESSITTE, LEGG and DAVIS, District Judges.

OPINION

MESSITTE, District Judge.


I.

Respondent R.M.W., a former member of the Bar of this Court, who was convicted

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of several felonies and as a result lost his bar membership, has petitioned for readmission to membership. Pursuant to Local Rule 705.4.d, the Court, upon recommendation of its Disciplinary and Admissions Committee, appointed G. Stewart Webb, Jr., Esquire, a member of the Bar of the Court, to conduct an investigation of Respondent. At approximately the same time, the Court en banc issued its decision in this docket and in In the Matter of S.G.P., Case No. 06-MC-116, overruling In the Matter of G.L.S., 586 F.Supp. 375 (D.Md.1984), establishing new criteria for the evaluation of applications and reapplications for membership in our Bar by individuals convicted of felonies. See 428 F.Supp.2d 389 (D.Md.2006).

Mr. Webb prepared a Report and Recommendation in connection with the Petition, which was followed by a hearing held before a Three-Judge Panel consisting of Judge Peter J. Messitte (Chair), Chief Judge Benson E. Legg, and Judge Andre M. Davis.

Having considered Respondent's Petition, the Panel, on behalf of the Full Bench of the Court, GRANTS the Petition for Reinstatement.

II.

Local Rule 705.4(c) of the Court provides that a petitioner for membership in the Court's bar who has been disbarred or suspended, "shall have the burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that he has the moral qualifications, competency and learning in the law required for admission to practice law before this Court and that his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the Bar or to the administration of justice, or subversive of the public interest." In evaluating these petitions, as set out in its decision of April 21, 2006 in this docket, the Court considers:

1. The nature and character of the offense or offenses committed;

2. The number and duration of offenses and the sentence as to each;

3. The period of any probation or supervised release term and whether the petitioner's adjustment to same was satisfactory;

4 The age and maturity of the applicant when the offenses were committed;

5. The grant or denial of a pardon for any offenses committed;

6. Whether the petitioner was disbarred by any other court;

7. The number of years that have elapsed since the last offense was committed, and the presence or absence of misconduct during that period;

8. Whether the petitioner has complied in all respects with the terms and conditions of prior disciplinary or remedial orders, including the payment of any costs ordered by the disbarring court;

9. Whether the petitioner has engaged or attempted or offered to engage in the unauthorized practice of law;

10. With regard to any incapacity or infirmity (including alcohol or drug abuse), whether it has ceased to exist and is not reasonably likely to recur in the future;

11. Whether the petitioner recognizes the wrongfulness and seriousness of the professional misconduct for which discipline was imposed;

12. Whether the petitioner currently has the requisite honesty and integrity to practice law;

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13. The opinions of character witnesses about the applicant's moral fitness;

14. Whether the petitioner has kept informed about recent developments in the law and is competent to practice law;

15. Any other re-admissions to the bar since the petitioner's disbarment;

16. Any other matter that the petitioner may deem relevant to the application or that may be specifically requested by the Court.

III.

Respondent, age 57, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Duke University and a law degree from George Washington University Law School. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in June 1975 and immediately began to practice law in his home town, Frederick, Maryland.

Having used marijuana and other drugs as early as his high school days, by the late 1970's Respondent had become addicted to cocaine and alcohol. In his law practice, much of which involved representation of clients charged with drinking and driving offenses and family matters, he was often paid in cash which he intentionally failed to report as income. This unreported income was used to purchase cocaine for his own consumption such that, during the period of time before his arrest, he was spending between $30,000 and $40,000 a year on his drug habit.

In September 1982, a search warrant was executed on Respondent's residence, which ultimately led to felony convictions and his disbarment from membership in our Court.

Additional background history will be recited in connection with the Court's discussion of each of the factors bearing upon the request for reinstatement.

IV.

A. The nature and character of the offense or offenses committed;

B. The number and duration of offenses and the sentence as to each; and

C. The period of any probation or supervised release term and whether the petitioner's adjustment to same was satisfactory.

Following his indictment in February 1983 by a State Grand Jury sitting in Anne Arundel County, Respondent pled not guilty and, after a 7 day jury trial, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the Maryland Income Tax Laws and three counts of unlawfully and willfully filing false and fraudulent state tax returns for the years 1979 and 1980. On September 14, 1983, Judge Raymond Thieme of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court sentenced Respondent to 5 years of imprisonment, with all but one year suspended on the conspiracy count, and one year on each of the false tax return counts, all to run concurrently with the sentence on the conspiracy count. In addition, Judge Thieme imposed a fine in the amount of 50% of all taxes due, as set forth in the Indictment. On appeal, the conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Maryland Court of Appeals. [R.M.W.] v. State, 301 Md. 214, 482 A.2d 886 (1984).

Federal charges were placed soon after the state indictment. Then, on October 31, 1983, following a three-day bench trial before Judge Norman Ramsey of this Court, Respondent was found guilty of one count of distribution of cocaine, two counts of possession with intent to distribution of cocaine, and one count of possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to two years of imprisonment on the distribution count and one year each on the possession with

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intent to distribute and possession counts, with the terms to run concurrently with the term imposed on the distribution count. Respondent was given a special parole term of three years. Although the Panel has not been provided with any written opinion, Respondent reports that the conviction and sentence were upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Respondent served his federal sentence first, commencing on December 10, 1984 at Allenwood Prison Camp in Pennsylvania. Thereafter, by Order dated July 12, 1985, pursuant to a Motion for Reduction of Sentence, Judge Ramsey reduced Respondent's federal prison termato one year and one day. Respondent remained at Allenwood until August 25, 1985, when he was released to the State of Maryland to serve his state sentence. However, as a result of a motion Respondent filed with Judge Thieme of the Anne Arundel Circuit Court, his state sentence was modified to run concurrently with the federal sentence, as a result of which Respondent was allowed to serve the remainder of his state sentence in the Frederick County Detention Center on a live in/work out basis. Respondent served an additional thirty-one days of confinement in the Frederick County facility to complete his state time and was released from State custody on September 25, 1985.

By all accounts, Respondent complied in full with the conditions of both the special parole condition of his federal sentence and his state probation and was discharged from those terms after completing same. Indeed, in written statements submitted in connection with Respondent's proceedings for reinstatement to the Maryland Bar, his state probation agent described him as "cooperative in every way" and his U.S. Probation Officer characterized him as "a remarkable probationer" ... "much more motivated than the usual person that she sees." The U.S. Probation Officer testified, among other things, that during his federal probation, Respondent was traveling 50 miles just to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting a couple of times a week.

D. The age and maturity of the applicant when the offenses were committed.

The criminal acts of which Respondent was convicted occurred between 1979 and 1982, when Respondent was between 30 and 33 years of age.

At that time, he was a relatively new attorney in the process of building a criminal law practice based largely on volume. Respondent testified that he was working between 80 and 100 hours per week; indeed his ability to do so, he says, was due to in part because of his cocaine use.

The distribution count of which Respondent was convicted apparently involved giving his girlfriend a Christmas present of a rock of cocaine; there was no other evidence suggesting that Respondent was otherwise trafficking in the substance.

Respondent's drug use, while serious, had not yet risen to the level of seriousness that it attained under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.1 On the other hand, the income tax evasion and failure to file income tax returns then and now involved dishonesty and deception that had to be sharply apparent; especially to someone schooled in the law, whatever his age. Indeed, as will be discussed, presently, it was precisely that consideration that led the Review Board of the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission to...

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2 practice notes
  • In re Petition for Reinstatement Ditrapano, No. 12–0677.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 18, 2014
    ...substantial or lasting harm is being done the client is unavailing[.]Id. at 664 (internal citations omitted); see also In re R.M.W., 486 F.Supp.2d 518, 533 (D.Md.2007) (chronicling cases in which attorneys have been denied reinstatement due to intentional misappropriation of client funds). ......
  • In re Petition for Reinstatement Ditrapano, No. 12-0677
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 19, 2014
    ...substantial or lasting harm is being done the client is unavailing[.]Id. at 664 (internal citations omitted); see also In re R.M.W., 486 F.Supp.2d 518, 533 (D. Md. 2007) (chronicling cases in which attorneys have been denied reinstatement due to intentional misappropriation of client funds)......
2 cases
  • In re Petition for Reinstatement Ditrapano, No. 12–0677.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 18, 2014
    ...substantial or lasting harm is being done the client is unavailing[.]Id. at 664 (internal citations omitted); see also In re R.M.W., 486 F.Supp.2d 518, 533 (D.Md.2007) (chronicling cases in which attorneys have been denied reinstatement due to intentional misappropriation of client funds). ......
  • In re Petition for Reinstatement Ditrapano, No. 12-0677
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 19, 2014
    ...substantial or lasting harm is being done the client is unavailing[.]Id. at 664 (internal citations omitted); see also In re R.M.W., 486 F.Supp.2d 518, 533 (D. Md. 2007) (chronicling cases in which attorneys have been denied reinstatement due to intentional misappropriation of client funds)......

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