July 2, 2022

MD significant courtroom disbars attorney who padded bills, dishonest his legislation agency

“(Keith M. Bonner’s) pattern of misconduct concerned not simply just misappropriating funds but in some cases involving elaborate lies to his companions to cover his tracks, these types of as sending emails describing client meetings that hardly ever took place and creating false calendar entries and time sheets,” Decide Brynja M. Booth wrote for the court docket. (The Everyday Record/File Picture)

Maryland’s best courtroom has disbarred a Bethesda attorney for dishonest not his customers but the regulation firm he co-established out of nearly $15,000 by padding his expenditure experiences in the course of a seven-year period of time.

Keith M. Bonner engaged in “knowing and intentional dishonesty” in seeking payment from the firm Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata LLP for the shopper enhancement operate he claimed to have performed in between 2012 and 2019, the Courtroom of Appeals mentioned in its 7- choice this thirty day period.

Having said that, the travel, lodge and restaurant expenditures Bonner described were expended on himself, his wife or their kids, the large court docket said.

“That Mr. Bonner stole from and lied to his associates in relationship with the exercise of law, as opposed to consumers, is of no instant,” Decide Brynja M. Booth wrote for the court docket. “We drop to carve out an exception to the presence of this aggravating aspect since Mr. Bonner’s conduct included deceit and misappropriation that influenced his law associates as a substitute of purchasers.”

In handing down the ultimate professional sanction, the Court of Appeals rejected Bonner’s plea for mercy in mild of the punishment he claimed to have by now suffered in the loss of his work at the agency he co-launched, the destruction to his name and the pending self-control by the District of Columbia bar for the same offense. Bonner argued through counsel that his steps warranted not disbarment but suspension with the possibility to apply for reinstatement following a person calendar year.

But the large courtroom said the destruction to Bonner’s name and loss of employment were self-inflicted and the foreseeable outcome of his actions.

“In many instances, an attorney’s misconduct – specifically the place theft and deceit are included – is particular to cause substantial, pure consequences outside of individuals related to the disciplinary proceeding,” Booth wrote.

“We will not understand the organic effects of intentional misconduct as constituting a mitigating variable that would militate in opposition to the imposition of a extra severe sanction,” Booth additional. “To do so could likely develop an illogical ‘seesaw’ impact – where by extra egregious misconduct that success in increased adverse purely natural consequences potential customers to a lessened sanction since we look at the adverse repercussions as a mitigating factor.”

The superior courtroom also turned down Bonner’s argument that his deceit was a symptom of his diagnosed frustration and anger psychosis brought on by his belief he was not currently being paid a fair share based mostly on the do the job he was accomplishing for the agency. While Bonner has considering the fact that been handled  for the stress and anger, the court claimed these psychological difficulties do not excuse the “dishonest and selfish” steps he took out of “self-righteousness.”

In buying disbarment, the court docket included the severity of Bonner’s intentional dishonesty was mitigated neither by his otherwise high-quality reputation about a 40-calendar year legal occupation nor by his cooperation with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission’s investigation of the ethics criticism, which was lodged by his previous law organization in 2020.

“Mr. Bonner understood that his misconduct was erroneous,” Booth wrote.

“When his misdeeds had been found in 2012, he had an possibility to ideal the ship,” Booth included. “Instead, in 2015, he veered the ship again onto the improper study course and continued to steer it awry till he strike floor in 2019. His sample of misconduct included not only misappropriating resources but at times involving elaborate lies to his associates to protect his tracks, these as sending email messages describing consumer conferences that in no way took place and building untrue calendar entries and time sheets.”

Maryland Bar Counsel Lydia E. Lawless and Bonner’s lawyer, Thomas B. Mason, declined to remark Monday on the substantial court’s choice. Mason is with Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP in Washington.

The Court of Appeals viewpoint was centered on results of actuality made by the judge it assigned to maintain a listening to on a movement for willpower filed by the Office of Bar Counsel, the commission’s administrative prosecutor.

Montgomery County Circuit Decide Harry C. Storm located that Bonner booked a flight to Bermuda with his spouse and four kids in July 2012. Bonner then requested one of the firm’s consumers, who stored an business on the island, if he would be there when the spouse and children arrived in August.

Despite the client’s negative reaction, Bonner went forward with the family vacation and charged $3,070.11 to the legislation firm’s credit card for the Bermuda fees, Storm observed.

Bonner later on instructed the firm’s finance director that the client experienced invited him to Bermuda, that the costs were being for shopper development and that Bonner had in truth not described all of his shopper-relevant costs. Bonner also told his organization associates that the consumer had invited him.

Having said that, when pressed by his associates, Bonner ultimately confessed. The companions regarded this as a one particular-time offense and just requested that Bonner return the $3,070.11, which he did.

But a few many years later on, Bonner resumed misappropriating from the organization, Storm observed.

Bonner charged more than $11,000 in own bills by saying they have been for consumer advancement involving 2015 and 2019. These expenditures integrated $1,400 for air vacation and resort lodging in San Francisco $1,100 in Amtrak vacation and lodge accommodations in New York and $1,300 in meals, according to Storm.

The organization initiated its investigation of Bonner’s expenditures in July 2019 after he submitted $639.86 in nation club receipts. When company leaders confronted him about the costs in November 2019, Bonner retired from the exercise relatively than experience possible expulsion, Storm said.

The executive committee of the organization – now recognised as Kiernan Trebach — filed its bar counsel complaint towards Bonner in January 2021.

The Courtroom of Appeals rendered its determination in Legal professional Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Keith M. Bonner, Misc. AG Docket No. 51, September Phrase 2021.