The number of complaints filed with the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland (AGC) against Maryland lawyers were “slightly down” in Fiscal Year 2013, according to the AGC’s most recent report.
The Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland’s 38th Annual Report reveals that, while not as great a decline as that seen between FY 2011 and FY 2012, the number of complaints filed this year nevertheless diminished – 1,948, down from the 2,030 reported in FY 2012. Docketed complaints, at 344 (down from 382 in FY 2012), also continued to diminish, representing a two-year decline of approximately 20 percent. Meanwhile, the number of active, licensed Maryland attorneys grew from 36,597 to 37,290 over the last year.
The 86 disciplinary actions recorded represented a slight drop from the 93 reported in FY 2012. The record-high number of disbarments recorded last year (45) saw a welcome decline in FY 2013. Still, that number, 37, remains the second-highest in the AGC’s 38-year history.
Of the disciplinary actions taken in FY 2013, 27 were attributed to matters concerning competent representation, diligence, communication, neglect, and abiding by a client’s decisions – a notable increase from the 16 reported in FY 2012. Nine were attributed to misconduct (dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 14 to misappropriation of funds.
However, disciplinary actions stemming from failure to maintain complete records, account to client or others, maintain a trust account, or otherwise safeguard funds fell by half – 10, down from 21 reported in FY 2012. Actions taken as a result of criminal acts or convictions also fell precipitously, from the 15 reported in FY 2012 to this year’s two.
Anne Arundel County, at 16, experienced one of the most considerable declines in the number of complaints associated with Maryland’s various locales, down from 35 reported in FY 2012. Baltimore County, which last year saw a spike in complaints (79, up from 57 in FY 2011), also fell in number (63) in FY 2013, while Carroll County clocked only two, down from the eight recorded the previous year. Three of the state’s most populous areas – Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County – saw little variation in their respective numbers of complaints over the last year.
Categorically, the 21 complaints the AGC docketed in matters regarding attorney trust accounts represented a significant drop from the 35 recorded last year – a close return to FY 2011’s 17. Docketed complaints concerning bankruptcy matters also fell (from 35 in FY 2012 to 20 in FY 2013), as did those regarding family law (45, down from 63 last year), immigration (nine, down from 17), and criminal matters (27, down from 39 in FY 2012). However, personal injury complaints, at 42, climbed by 10 from the previous year.
Created in 1975, the Attorney Grievance Commission, at the direction of Bar Counsel, oversees the conduct of both Maryland lawyers and non-members of the Maryland Bar who engage in the practice of law in the state. For more information, download the complete AGC Report at www.courts.state.md.us/attygrievance/docs/annualreport13.pdf.