The polarization of politics in our country has caused an attorney to try to compel the Maryland Grievance Commission to investigate attorneys who represented Hillary Clinton. An attorney, Ty Clevenger, believed that three Maryland attorneys who represented Hillary Clinton had violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. He wrote to the Grievance Commission but the Commission closed the investigation because Mr. Clevenger had no personal knowledge of the alleged unethical conduct. Undeterred by that decision, Clevenger then filed a Mandamus Action in the trial court to require the Grievance Commission to investigate the attorneys. The trial court ordered the Grievance Commission to investigate the complaint. As the court explains:
This case began when the Appellee, Ty Clevenger, submitted to the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland a complaint alleging professional misconduct by three Maryland-barred attorneys while they were representing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Office of Bar Counsel thereafter informed Mr. Clevenger that it would not undertake an investigation of the allegations in his complaint because he had no personal knowledge of the allegations presented and was not an aggrieved party or client…….
On December 20, 2016, Mr. Clevenger, proceeding without the assistance of a Maryland-barred attorney, filed in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County a Petition for Writ of Mandamus (“Petition”). He sought to have the circuit court compel Bar Counsel to conduct an investigation, arguing that then-effective Maryland Rule 19-711 required Bar Counsel to investigate every complaint that was not facially frivolous or unfounded. The Commission moved to dismiss the Petition for lack of jurisdiction, among other grounds. It asserted that the Court of Appeals retains original and complete jurisdiction over all attorney disciplinary matters.
The circuit court denied the Commission’s motion to dismiss on July 25, 2017. On September 11, 2017, the court held a hearing on the merits. After hearing argument, the circuit court found that it had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the Petition because it was not yet an attorney disciplinary matter and, thus, was not within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals. The judge further ruled that Rule 19-711 required Bar Counsel to investigate every complaint that was not frivolous, and Bar Counsel had made no claim or showing that Mr. Clevenger’s complaint was frivolous. At the close of the hearing, the circuit court indicated that it would order Bar Counsel to conduct an investigation. By a written order dated September 22, 2017, the court granted the Petition and ordered the Commission to investigate the allegations presented in Mr. Clevenger’s complaint.
The Grievance Commission appealed and the Court of Appeals held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the mandamus petition. The action was dismissed. The Court of Appeals held that it had sole jurisdiction to consider disciplinary matters and that the trial court had no such authority or jurisdiction.
Comment: This country is politically polarized. Here the polarization extended to the attorney discipline process. Thankfully, the court dismissed the action. Otherwise, every complainant with an unsatisfactory outcome would then turn around and sue the Grievance Commission. In this case, the Court did the right thing and dismissed this obviously frivolous lawsuit. That the trial court entertained the lawsuit for more than one minute concerns me.