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Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Kimmel

955 A.2d 269 (2008)

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Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Kimmel

Maryland Court of Appeals

955 A.2d 269 (2008)

Facts

The law firm of Kimmel & Silverman, P.C. handled a high volume of lemon-law cases, i.e., automobile-warranty cases, that were mostly resolved through settlements. The firm hired Maryland lawyer Robin Katz to open and manage the firm’s first Maryland office. Katz had experience handling high-volume claims but not contested civil lawsuits. The firm gave Katz remote paralegal support but did not give her any lawyer or paralegal support in Maryland. Katz was required to do all in-person work by herself, from opening mail to handling court hearings. The firm repeatedly put significant pressure on Katz to file more cases. As the number of Maryland cases grew, Katz had difficulty keeping up. Katz consistently reported back to her supervisors, including firm partners Craig Kimmel and Robert Silverman (defendants), that she needed help with her caseload. Instead of checking on Katz or sending help, Katz’s supervisors told her to do more work to settle the cases. Overwhelmed, Katz stopped entering some cases into the deadline-tracking system and repeatedly missed case deadlines. The missed deadlines caused courts to dismiss those cases with prejudice, preventing those clients from ever being able to refile their cases. However, feeling guilty, Katz tried to hide these dismissals from the firm. Eventually, Katz resigned due to physical and emotional problems from the stress. Katz’s resignation caused Silverman to drive to the Maryland office for the first time, where he saw that Katz looked like a beaten dog and that the office files were out of control. The firm quickly hired multiple Maryland lawyers to fix what could be fixed and made fair settlements to the clients whose cases could not be fixed. Although Kimmel and Silverman were not licensed in Maryland, the Maryland bar’s Attorney Grievance Commission (plaintiff) charged them with professional misconduct for failing to adequately supervise Katz’s work.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Harrell, J.)

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