Disbarment is urged for ex-board president Hollis and the matter of a client's $90,000

September 05, 1996|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission is recommending the disbarment of Baltimore Urban League Chairman and former city school board President Meldon S. Hollis Jr., following a court's finding that Hollis misappropriated about $90,000 he was holding for a client, then lied about what happened to the money.

The grievance commission took the step Tuesday in papers filed with the Court of Appeals, the state's highest judicial panel. The Court of Appeals ultimately will decide whether to impose sanctions on Hollis. A court date is not expected before November.

Hollis' lawyer, Charles Jerome Ware, has filed objections with the court, seeking to argue the case again in Circuit Court.

Ware also objected to the grievance commission's call for his client to be disbarred, which he said he was learning about for the first time yesterday.

"I'm quite frankly speechless about that," Ware said. "Mr. Hollis and I are apparently the last ones to hear."

Mel Hirshman, bar counsel for the grievance commission, said disbarment is the sanction his office routinely seeks in cases involving misuse of client funds. "It's the regular recommendation," he said.

Hollis said he remained hopeful that he would be vindicated.

"We have documents in our possession contradicting the findings of the court," he said, declining to comment on specifics in the case.

The grievance commission took the step of recommending disbarment after a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge found that Hollis violated lawyer rules of professional conduct while representing a client, Dr. Leroy Amar, in 1992.

Judge Richard T. Rombro made the findings in a 10-page document filed with the court last month.

The findings came after Rombro presided at a two-day hearing in April, when lawyers for the grievance commission and Hollis presented their versions of the case.

In the court filing, Rombro rejected Hollis' explanations that the dispute grew out of a misunderstanding about legal fees. Rombro also didn't accept Hollis' explanations that the money was a loan.

Instead, Rombro pointed out numerous inconsistencies in Hollis' explanations of how he handled money belonging to Amar. Hollis transferred money from an escrow account to his own operating account, using the funds to pay expenses for his law office, according to court records.

Hollis had received the money after helping Amar sell three medical clinics, the court records show.

"Regrettably, this court can place little credence in [Hollis'] testimony," Rombro wrote.

Ware said that he would renew his call for a new Circuit Court judge to hear the case. All attorney discipline cases go through the Circuit Court, where judges perform fact-finding functions. The cases then reach the Court of Appeals, where penalties against the lawyers are weighed.

Ware has argued that Rombro shouldn't have heard the case against Hollis, contending that the judge is biased because of past disputes between the judge and Hollis.

In court papers, Hollis has said he opposed Rombro's re-election to the bench several years ago, and, when he appeared in the judge's court later, Rombro acted with "apparent hostility." Earlier, the Court of Appeals denied Hollis' request and kept the judge on the case.

"I wish [Rombro] had done the right thing and recused himself," Ware said yesterday.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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