Ellicott City attorney loses license for illegally making photocopies Rybczynski consents to disbarment during probe

February 14, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

An Ellicott City attorney has lost his law license for illegally making thousands of photocopies in the Howard County Courthouse.

Melvin Gary Rybczynski -- who also runs a local title business -- was disbarred by the Court of Appeals on Feb. 5.

In October, he was sentenced to two weeks in jail and ordered to pay more than $2,500 in restitution for making copies with a state-owned copy card.

Melvin Hirshman, counsel for the state's Attorney Grievance Commission, said Rybczynski consented to the disbarment in the middle of an investigation because he could not defend himself against the charges of improper conduct.

"I think lawyers' responsibilities are to obey all laws," Hirshman said.

Neither Rybczynski nor his attorney in the criminal case, Joseph Fleischmann, could be reached for comment.

Since July, 10 attorneys in Maryland have been disbarred, according to Hirshman, who said Rybczynski can reapply for his license if he proves he has been rehabilitated.

Last February, police arrested Rybczynski after conducting an undercover investigation that involved staking out the courthouse clerk's office for three days before taking the state-owned card out of the copy machine that Rybczynski was using, according to charging documents in the case.

In June, Rybczynski, 51, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor theft for making copies on a copy card that is supposed to be used only by employees of the Howard County clerk's office.

Police initially alleged that Rybczynski and three employees made more than 19,000 copies without paying for them -- tallying up $4,800 in costs at rate of 25 cents a copy.

Rybczynski told police he found the card -- which was issued to land records supervisor Jeff Bridner -- in the file room of the clerk's office.

Bridner was not charged in the case but his wife, Patricia, works for Rybczynski and was accused of theft in relation to the case.

Rybczynski's employees -- his two daughters, Lisa and Jennifer, as well as Patricia Bridner -- had the theft cases against them placed on the inactive docket in June.

That means the cases are unlikely to go to trial and will be dismissed within a year if no further allegations are made against them.

The case sparked a spat between the Carroll County state's attorney's office and Howard County Circuit Court Clerk

Margaret D. Rappaport.

It was handled by Carroll County prosecutors because one of the defendants was related to an employee in the Howard County state's attorney's office.

Rappaport alleged that the Carroll prosecutor mishandled the case by allowing Rybczynski, who was charged with felony theft, to plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge without notifying her office.

In apparent retribution, Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes threatened to conduct an audit of Rappaport's office. The Carroll prosecutor assigned to the case -- Shawn Larson -- later left the office.

This is not the first time Rybczynski has had trouble with the Attorney Grievance Commission.

In fall 1995, his law license was suspended for 30 days after he misrepresented himself as the director of Land Title Research of Maryland Co., court records show.

The owner of that company, who was unlicensed, misappropriated more than $1 million in escrow funds, according to the records.

Rybczynski was not involved in the misappropriation, the court records show.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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