Ethics questions raised over solicitor's conduct

But actions were not criminal, expert says

May 02, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. apologized and acknowledged that he went too far when he interfered as police arrested his nephew on drug charges Tuesday.

All forgiven?

Not according to some lawyers and police who believe Zollicoffer should be investigated and others who say he should be held accountable for his actions.

Though Zollicoffer's conduct was not criminal, it was unethical, said William I. Weston, ethics and technology liaison for the American Bar Association.

"It smacks of the old days when you called somebody when you wanted something taken care of," said Weston, former professor of ethics at the University of Baltimore School of Law. "He displayed incredibly poor judgment."

Weston said Zollicoffer should perform community service to regain respect and set an example for other lawyers in the city.

"Of anybody in the system, somebody in his position is supposed to set the standard," said Weston, a professor and dean at the Los Angeles-based Concord University School of Law. "He is an officer of the court and should act accordingly. Even if the police were wrong, he of all people should use the legal system to solve that problem."

Gary McLhinney, president of the city police union, said the incident undermines police confidence in the city's top lawyer. "I have some very serious concerns about what happened that night as well as Mr. Zollicoffer's ability in the future to represent police officers," he said.

"Frankly, it's the wrong way to act for the city solicitor or any member of the bar," said Abraham A. Dash, who teaches legal ethics at the University of Maryland School of Law. "But it doesn't reach the point of a crime. My view is that this is between him and his boss.

"Had he used his authority to stop the arrest, that would be troubling. This to me is not that troubling," Dash said. "I smell a little desperation. He maybe was hoping [that] if it wasn't a serious drug bust they would leave his nephew alone because he was there."

Melvin Hirshman, counsel for the Attorney Grievance Commission, said that if a complaint were to be filed against Zollicoffer, he could not disclose it because of confidentiality rules.

Members of the Maryland Bar Association's ethics committee said they help attorneys avoid conflicts but do not comment after an incident has occurred.

Several lawyers declined to answer questions, with one saying, "The politics are too thick."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.