Court of Appeals disbars bankruptcy lawyer

January 31, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

The Court of Appeals has disbarred bankruptcy lawyer Howard Stuart Myers for lying to a District Court judge about his traffic record in 1991.

The high court's action against Mr. Myers, 52, came despite recommendations from Baltimore County District Judge Gerard M. Wittstadt, who made the original complaint, and Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl, who held two hearings on the case, that he only be suspended from practice.

Counting heavily against Mr. Myers was a three-year suspension in 1985 for lying to an Attorney Grievance Commission investigator and for fabricating a cover letter for a will he had prepared, according to the appeals court ruling.

Last week's Court of Appeals decision, written by Judge Robert M. Bell, said:

"Candor and truthfulness are two of the most important moral character traits of a lawyer. [Mr. Myers] has exhibited an absence of these traits on not one, but two, occasions, and previously has been suspended as a result of one of them. This instance of misrepresentation, in fact, comes after he has completed a three-year suspension for the earlier misrepresentation, thus indicating that he has 'apparently learned nothing' from that experience."

Nevett Steele Jr., who represented Mr. Myers before the Court of Appeals, said, "The punishment was too harsh," particularly in view of the recommendations from Judges Kahl and Wittstadt.

Mr. Steele said Mr. Myers, whose office was in Pikesville, offered to accept a suspension and a "lawyers' community service" punishment by taking several consumer bankruptcy cases monthly for three years for the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service.

"The big firms like to take the big bankruptcy cases, but nobody wants to take consumer bankruptcies, and he volunteered to do that," Mr. Steele said.

Mr. Myers had little comment on his disbarment but said he built an active consumer bankruptcy practice after his suspension. He said he may now seek work as a paralegal.

The case began in April 1991, when Mr. Myers appeared before Judge Wittstadt on a traffic charge. When the judge found him guilty and asked about his record under oath, the lawyer replied that he had no points and no tickets for 21 years.

Judge Wittstadt, since retired, called up Mr. Myers' record on his bench-side computer terminal and found three speeding violations, in 1987, 1988 and 1990, and one violation point. He complained to the Attorney Grievance Commission that Mr. Myers had misrepresented himself under oath.

Judge Kahl conducted two hearings on the complaint, the second directed by the Court of Appeals.

At the first hearing, Mr. Myers said he did not intend to deceive the judge about his driving record and at the second that he did not know what his record contained before he denied having any points, according to the Court of Appeals opinion.

Judge Kahl concluded that Mr. Myers had misrepresented his record deliberately. In disbarring Mr. Myers, the Court of Appeals said his misrepresentation was "self-serving, for the purpose of concealing [his] misdeeds."

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