The lawyer who specializes in harassment


February 07, 1993|By MICHAEL OLESKER

In Baltimore County Circuit Court that morning, Judge J. Norris Byrnes looked Stuart Alison in the eye and directed a word not normally addressed to a practicing attorney.

"Harassment," he declared, and he did not cover his disgust. Before him, Alison tried to slough it off -- a joke, he said, and what's so bad about mailing a note about "Mafia lawyer scum" to an attorney with whom he was now coincidentally battling? But Judge Byrnes was having none of it.

"It is vexatious," he sputtered. "This is the most ridiculous. . ." The courtroom was silent. Byrnes glared at Alison and found the words he wanted.

"I gather this is something that you enjoy," the judge said. "That you like doing this. I can't imagine it, but since you seem to do it a lot and get into hassles with everybody you come into contact with, you must enjoy it. I guess that is your business."

In that moment, Judge Byrnes seemed to be speaking not merely of the case in front of him -- Alison and Bel Air attorney James Close arguing over a fee -- but about Alison's recent history in and out of courtrooms in Harford and Baltimore counties, which has provoked astonishment well beyond the legal community.

Or, as an opinion written by the Maryland Court of Appeals put it three years ago:

"For about two years, [Alison] . . . engaged in a course of professional and private conduct that was inappropriate, rude, vulgar, insulting, occasionally dangerous and sometimes criminal."

That was the high court's language when it suspended Alison's privilege to practice law for 90 days.

Last week, though, Alison declared, "I'm back now. All that other stuff is history."

Some history. Included are these episodes, taken from the Court of Appeals opinion that led to his suspension:

* After Alison and his wife separated, he saw her driving in Bel Air and followed her until she stopped for a red light. Then he tried to forcibly remove her from her car.

When she refused, Alison grabbed a hammer from the trunk of his car and broke the window of his wife's car. Then he pulled her out and was pushing her into the back seat of his own car when police stopped him. They found a handgun in his car and 50 rounds of hollow-point ammunition.

* Twice, Alison put bags of trash on his wife's front porch. Once a Bel Air policeman followed him there. A fight with the officer ensued. Alison was convicted of hindering the policeman.

* Once, entering court to answer contempt charges, he was asked to submit to a pat-down search. Alison refused and tried to force his way into court. Asked by a judge to cooperate, he refused. The judge then ordered him to comply. Alison still resisted. Five deputy sheriffs were required to accomplish the search, and then they handcuffed Alison and carried him into the courtroom, where Alison loudly cursed the judge and an opposing attorney.

There were other incidents noted in the Court of Appeals opinion, along with a remark by Judge J. William Hinkel, who cited "a campaign of disrespect, abuse and intimidation. It made no difference if the person were a friend, relative, newspaper reporter, police officer, fellow lawyer or judge. Harassment was the order of the day."

Some are now questioning if, in fact, that day has passed.

Last January, Harford County Circuit Court Judge Cypert Whitfill, presiding over an insurance case, angrily declared that Alison's "conduct was intended to inflame and prejudice the jury . . . outside the bounds of appropriate professional conduct."

Three months ago, in Baltimore, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Noel cited "incredible and outrageous" allegations in a repossession case and ordered Alison to pay $20,000 in fees, after noting claims "made with the sole intention of harassing honest business people."

Asked, last week, about more recent incidents, Alison, 48, a former assistant state's attorney in Harford County and one-time candidate for state's attorney, said, "I've seen the error of my ways. I'm going forward."

But, in December, he was still in a five-year fight with attorney James Close over a mutual client. That's when an exasperated )) Judge Byrnes berated Alison, and ordered him to pay Close more than $6,000 in costs. Alison is appealing the decision.

"You have enjoyed yourself the last couple of days," Judge Byrnes said.

"I have looked out and watched you and you take great pleasure in trying to make Mr. Close squirm. No doubt about that. None in my mind. None."

A spokesman for the Attorney Grievance Commission said last fTC week that they are aware of recent controversies with Alison but would say nothing further. Alison shrugged them off.

"Nothing serious," he said. "Business is better than ever."

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