A unanimous Maryland higher court docket this thirty day period disbarred an attorney who violated the “fundamental obligation to safeguard shopper funds” and withdrew considerably of that dollars for private use.
Lawrence Daniel O’Neill, a Maryland attorney who retained his business office in New York, also lied to Maryland’s Workplace of Bar Counsel through its investigation of his misconduct and failed to react timely and totally to the investigators’ ask for for his money records, the Court docket of Appeals said in ordering his disbarment.
“On admission to the Maryland bar, a law firm have to swear an oath to demean oneself ‘fairly and honorably as an attorney and practitioner at law,” Choose Michele D. Hotten wrote for the courtroom.
“The oath is a solemn commitment to the ‘virtues of character, honor, and integrity,’ which we have described as ‘the cornerstone of our lawful profession,’” Hotten extra. “By violating a number of rules of experienced responsibility, respondent (O’Neill) did not quite and honorably discharge the ethical duties, embodied in the oath, as required by all customers of the Maryland bar.”
O’Neill, who suggested company consumers on tax challenges, mergers and acquisitions, often dipped into his lawyer trust concerning July 2018 and September 2019, resulting in detrimental balances 10 unique periods in the consumer-funded account that may not be withdrawn from right up until earned, the higher courtroom said in its 7- final decision.
O’Neill also directed Chase Financial institution to automatically debit money from the account to pay back his month-to-month individual credit rating card charges, the court docket additional, citing conclusions of the decide it assigned to review the disciplinary statements bar counsel lodged against O’Neill.
O’Neill’s misconduct arrived to mild on July 25, 2018, when the lender noted an overdraft on the account to New York’s Lawyers’ Fund for Consumer Safety, which then instructed the state’s Lawyer Grievance Commission.
The New York panel, noting it lacked jurisdiction about O’Neill for the reason that he was not accredited in the point out, forwarded the data to the Maryland Legal professional Grievance Commission in October 2018, in accordance to the examining choose, Elizabeth S. Morris of Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
Bar counsel, the commission’s administrative prosecutor, requested O’Neill about the overdrafts on the account in January 2019.
O’Neill responded that the overdrafts transpired when “several checks presented by customers in payment of expenses had been returned, unpaid, yet resources were being withdrawn to fork out charges.” He also stated he would supply economical data to bar counsel, as properly as an accounting of client transactions as asked for by bar counsel.
But O’Neill unsuccessful to post any data to bar counsel for about 9 months. He then submitted a distribute sheet he claimed was an accounting of a belief account, as effectively as bank statements for the months of July 2018 via July 2019.
Bar counsel responded by acquiring O’Neill’s lender information for people months from Chase Bank by using subpoena. The data indicated inadequate resources.
Morris identified, and the substantial courtroom agreed, that O’Neill’s explanation for the overdrafts was knowingly untrue primarily based on the bank records that in-depth the insufficiency.
O’Neill “demonstrated a dishonest and selfish motive by working with shopper funds from the attorney rely on account to address private fees,” Hotten wrote.
“The repeated cases of misappropriation and incorrect accounting methods constituted various violations and a pattern of misconduct,” Hotten extra. “Respondent unsuccessful to safeguard customer cash and to communicate truthfully and responsively with bar counsel despite more than 40 years of lawful practical experience.”
In ordering O’Neill’s disbarment, the Courtroom of Appeals concluded he had violated Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Perform pertaining to competence, safekeeping of assets, attorney have confidence in account document trying to keep, commingling of funds, prohibited transactions and disciplinary matters.
O’Neill did not promptly respond to a telephone information Wednesday requesting remark on the substantial court’s conclusion.
Bar Counsel Lydia E. Lawless declined to comment on the ruling.
The large court docket rendered its choice in Lawyer Grievance Fee v. Lawrence Daniel O’Neill, Misc. Docket AG No. 41, September Time period 2020.