Bank Blows Whistle On $86 Overdraw From Lawyer's Trust Account, Triggering Bar Probe That Lands Attorney In Hot Water; Maryland Supremes Nix Disbarment Request, Indefinitely Suspend His License Instead (Based On No Client Harm) For Deceitless Mismanagement Of Client Cash, Keeping Crappy Fiduciary Accounting Records
- A Frederick lawyer has been suspended indefinitely for mismanaging client funds.
The Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court,  suspended Willie Mahone, an attorney focused on civil rights law.
Sandy Spring Bank notified the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission that Mahone’s attorney trust account was overdrawn by $86, a court filing stated.
When the commission investigated Mahone’s finances, it found that he failed to maintain accurate account records, mixed personal money with client funds and withdrew cash from the trust account, overdrawing on multiple client accounts.
While the Court of Appeals agreed that Mahone mishandled funds, it rejected the Bar Counsel’s request to disbar him because the grievance commission did not show that Mahone intended to defraud his clients.(1)
The commission on Feb. 29 charged Mahone with several violations of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct.
On Sept. 9, 2014, he made a $100 donation to his church using his attorney trust account, the commission found, and had negative balances in nine client accounts.
Additionally, Mahone did not respond to repeated requests for client ledgers and deposit slips in the accounts, according court records.
The attorney said he did not mean to ignore the requests. He said he did not see them because he had moved his office. Mahone also denied overdrawing accounts and mixing personal money with client funds.
- For the careless mishandling of funds that did not result in financial loss to the client, typically the appropriate sanction is indefinite suspension. [Att'y Grievance Comm'n v. Obi, 393 Md. 643, 658 (2006)] (collecting cases).
Here, it is clear that Mahone did not act with a dishonest or selfish intent and there is no evidence that any of Mahone's clients lost money due to his mismanagement. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Mahone's mismanagement of his attorney trust account impacted the quality of his legal representation, and Mahone has taken steps to remedy his admittedly "sloppy recordkeeping." He has resolved to more closely examine his monthly statements and has contacted an accountant who agreed to monitor his attorney trust account.