For over a year I have been following with great interest the attempt by the Attorney Grievance Commission’s (AGC) Lydia Lawless to disbar two wonderful attorneys. As you may recall, Allen Dyer and Susan Gray represented pro bono (without charge) those petition signature-gathers who attempted a referendum to overturn some of the most egregious Howard County zoning changes produced by Comp Zoning 2013. While the AGC’s mission is to protect citizens from unscrupulous or poorly skilled attorneys, NONE of Dyer and Gray’s clients had ANY complaints with their representation. Therefore it was particularly unprecedented (and vindictive) that developers’ attorney William Erskine should bring charges against them through the AGC that could result in their disbarment.
Ms. Lawless worked hand-in-hand with Mr. Erskine (who also attempted to have 25 petition circulators thrown in jail for exercising their First Amendment rights). Lawless filed hundreds of charges against Dyer and Gray, the specifics of which she never actually identified during the 16 days of trial before one of Maryland’s most respected judges. I personally attended several days of this trial and was shocked by Ms. Lawless’s behavior.
I was very impressed by Judge Silkworth’s interest, fairness and restraint. He truly appeared to bend over backwards to ensure due process for both sides. Ultimately Judge Silkworth found in his extensive and well documented report that Gray and Dyer were completely exonerated and that the behaviors of Lydia Lawless and William Erskine were problematic at best and often contrary to the ethics of the legal profession. Silkworth concluded that Gray and Dyer were protecting the First Amendment rights of their clients. These were rights Ms. Lawless repeatedly said did not exist in Maryland.
Ms. Lawless wrote a scathing response to Judge Silkworth’s report of findings essentially accusing him of being a rogue judge intent on smearing her and Erskine’s names. Such criticism before the Court was unbelievable to read. Months have passed with NO decision regarding the potential disbarment of Dyer and Gray, who are still left with their professions and lives hanging in limbo.
Meanwhile interested parties not associated with the case have done a careful analysis of the extent to which Ms. Lawless will go to manipulate facts to fit her agenda. For example, the trial transcripts show she read to the judge from the complaint she earlier wrote, but then she deviously inserted additional wording to fit her argument. When challenged, she refused to let anyone else see the document. Even the judge was told “…don’t touch my stuff.”
Additionally, she erroneously accused a Department of Justice attorney of hiding his son from her process server. The process server filed an affidavit to the contrary.
Within Judge Silkworth’s Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law are countless examples of Ms. L’s inappropriate behaviors. Some examples include:
- … [Ms. L] gives no weight or consideration to the legitimate and important legal issues that Respondents faced. [Ms. L] merely adopts the biased position taken by Mr. Erskine without considering the totality of the circumstances.
- This court further notes [Ms.L’s] lack of objectivity during the pendency of this litigation. [Ms. L] presented the Court and the Respondents with vague, broad, and sweeping allegations of wrong doing. Respondents believe that the charges against them, did not afford the necessary information to respond in detail to the allegations. Respondents felt that [Ms. L] was allowing Mr. Erskine to violate the purpose of the rules by using the Attorney Grievance process against them during the litigation. The Court believes there is some merit to this claim.
- ……the bias and lack of objectivity remains. [Ms. L’s] conduct reflects a lack of fairness, objectivity and bias that the Court should not ignore.
- Once again, this Court finds that [Ms. L’s] allegation is too simplistic in a matter that is much more complex and detailed.
- [Ms. L’s] willingness to cite to evidence that is in no way clear and convincing calls into question Assistant Bar Counsel’s ability to remain personally unbiased in this matter and further taints the credibility of their accusations.
- [Ms. L’s] …argument is frivolous as it is not supported by any law.
The last comment is quite ironic. Ms. Lawless and Mr. Erskine accused Gray and Dyer of filing frivolous cases in defense of their clients. Yet all of the proceedings involved in the referendum, including the protection of signature gatherers, generated a transcript of 439 pages. The transcript of the disciplinary case brought by Ms. Lawless was 3,184 pages! Thus the disciplinary case required more than 7.25 times the amount of in-Court time to resolve than the underlying matter.
And here is where this misadventure takes yet another bizarre twist…..
Despite evidence that she would misrepresent facts to create her own narrative, Ms. Lawless is now under most inappropriate consideration for the position of chief prosecuting attorney (Bar Counsel) of the Maryland’s Attorney Grievance Commission! A woman who has shown such a complete lack of judicial ethics is awarded for her ethics and nominated to be Bar Counsel!?! Is it any wonder the public has lost faith in the judiciary in Maryland?
But all may not yet be lost. There is an unusual opportunity from the AGC itself. It has asked for comments on the 3 finalists for Bar Council by next Monday. Hard copy is due at their office by April 3rd, addressed to the Attorney Grievance Commission, 200 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Suite 300, Annapolis, MD 21401. Return receipt requested is suggested.
This presents an extraordinary opportunity to act locally on a national problem – the ‘alternative facts’ method of supporting an agenda. In this case it is an agenda that serves corporate interest over the basic constitutional rights of Howard County citizens.
The facts in this case indicate that Ms. Lawless is a seriously flawed candidate for a position as a trustworthy public servant who should be focused on the interest of the public good and upholding the US constitution. How much more lowering of standards can be anticipated under her “leadership”?
You too can and should write a letter or e-mail—and meet me on the high road,
P.S. Problems with the outcomes of the 2013 Comprehensive Zoning Process are what started this misadventure. An opportunity for public participation in evaluating and updating the zoning, subdivision, and land development regulations has not been well publicized. Please try to attend one of the 2 remaining sessions as described below.