A Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. (Bar Registration No. 440281).
Before Schwelb, Farrell, and Washington, Associate Judges.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Farrell, Associate Judge
On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility
The Board on Professional Responsibility (the Board) recommends imposition of reciprocal discipline on respondent (Barneys) in the form of disbarrment, based upon a decision of the Court of Appeals of Maryland unconditionally excluding Barneys "from the admission to or exercise of any privilege to practice law in [Maryland]." Maryland Rule 16-701 (e); see Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Maryland v. Barneys, 805 A.2d 1040 (Md. 2002) (Barneys I). Having made no appearance until now in these reciprocal discipline proceedings, Barneys argues for the first time that he may not be disciplined reciprocally in the circumstances of this case and that, in any event, the most he should receive is a nine-month suspension (combined with a fitness requirement) rather than disbarrment - the latter a sanction, he contends, that is "significantly greater" than the exclusion from practice imposed by Maryland. We reject these arguments and accept the Board's recommendation.
Barneys, a member of the Bars of New York, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia, opened an office in August 1996 at a Langley Park, Maryland address. His letterhead and business cards used the name "Law Offices of Bradford J. Barneys, P.C." without noting any jurisdictional limitation on the practice. From August 1996 through 1998, Barneys practiced from that office. During this time, he entered an appearance as counsel and otherwise represented clients in at least five cases in the District Court of Maryland sitting in Prince George's County and the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, when he was neither admitted to the Maryland Bar nor admitted specially by the court.
In one case in which Barneys appeared, State of Maryland v. Sanchez, CT980986X, he contacted Gates Bail Bonds ("Gates") to arrange for a $150,000 bond for his client. He led Gates to believe that he represented Mr. Sanchez in a worker's compensation matter in which settlement funds were expected within thirty days, and promised to pay Gates $15,000 from the anticipated settlement for the bond. He provided Gates with a signed document titled "Assignment of Settlement Proceeds" that promised "to observe all terms of [the assignment agreement] and . . . to withhold such funds from any settlement, judgment or verdict as may be necessary to adequately protect Gates Bail Bonds." The document was signed by Barneys and purportedly by Sanchez. In fact, Sanchez had not signed the document and Barneys did not represent him in a worker's compensation case; Sanchez had such a case but he was represented in it by another attorney who was not associated with Barneys. Barneys did not inform the other attorney of the assignment, and when the other attorney subsequently disbursed to Sanchez his share of the settlement funds, he did so without giving notice to Gates. When Sanchez later failed to appear for trial, the bond posted by Gates was forfeited.
Gates, through Deborah Gates, filed a complaint against Barneys with the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland. On November 19, 1998, a Commission investigator found a lobby sign describing Barneys as an "attorney at law" and a law office sign in Barneys' name outside his suite in Langley Park, Maryland. In response to a letter from the Attorney Grievance Commission informing him of the Gates' complaint and threatening to seek an injunction unless he closed his Maryland office, Barneys agreed to close his practice there in a letter dated December 12, 1998. The suite sign was removed when the investigator made a return visit on December 28, 1998. On January 22, 1999, a lobby sign had not yet been removed, but Barneys' business cards were no longer in open view.
Barneys admitted to the investigator that he had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Sanchez's case, but he initially denied representing any other clients in Maryland. The Maryland hearing judge subsequently concluded that Barneys had represented clients in at least fives cases in the District Court of Maryland sitting in Prince George's County and the Circuit Court for Prince George's County.
Previously, in May of 1997, Barneys had filed a petition for admission to the Maryland Bar as an out-of-state attorney. The Maryland Court of Appeals found that "[t]he premise of that application was that, although he resided in Maryland, he practiced law in the District of Columbia at that time." See Barneys I, 805 A.2d at 1042 n.11.
Maryland Bar Counsel filed a petition for disciplinary action charging Barneys with misconduct, as defined by Maryland Rule 16-701 (k), in connection with his alleged unauthorized practice of law in Maryland, and alleging a violation of the Business Occupations and Professions Article of Maryland Code §§ 10-601 and 10-602 and the ...