Kerpelman disbarment appeal denied Supreme Court won't consider case

November 05, 1991|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun Lynda Robinson of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- Disbarred Baltimore lawyer Leonard J. Kerpelman, who represented atheist Madalyn E. Murray in the 1963 Supreme Court case that outlawed public school prayer, failed yesterday in a bid to get the Supreme Court to restore his right to practice law in Maryland.

Without comment and with no justice noting a dissent, the court refused to consider Mr. Kerpelman's appeal from the disbarment ordered by the Maryland Court of Appeals last June. As is customary, the court gave no explanation for bypassing the case.

Flamboyant and contentious, Mr. Kerpelman insisted in a brief ,, interview that he was "railroaded and treated to the joys of anti-Semitism" when state bar officials took away his license.

"I'm the only good lawyer in town," he said. "I've been deprived of a jury trial from start to finish. I may get one: go out and practice law and get arrested."

State bar officials found his conduct unprofessional in two criminal cases he had handled: a 1987 trial in Montgomery County on charges of child abduction and a 1988 trial in Wicomico County on sex abuse charges.

In the Montgomery case, the trial judge blamed Mr. Kerpelman for several incidents of disruptive and disrespectful conduct during the trial. In the Wicomico case, he was found to have failed to leave the case after his client had fired him and to have threatened his client.

The state Court of Appeals, in ordering the lawyer disbarred, said one factor that influenced its decision was that Mr. Kerpelman had twice before been suspended from law practice for professional misconduct. He was suspended in 1980 for fee gouging and for advising a client to ignore a court order. He was suspended again the next year for fee gouging.

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