Bad Words: AGC v. Maiden and the Ethics of Profanity and Offensive Language

By: George S. Mahaffey | 10.17.22 | Media

Maiden involved a Maryland attorney who represented a client for a short period of time before the two had a falling out over fees and a retainer agreement. (AGC V. Maiden, 480 Md. 1, 279 A.3d 940 (2022)) Upset at the termination of representation, the attorney sent a long letter to the client that was laced with profanity and antisemitic language. When Bar Counsel initiated an investigation, the attorney lied about sending the letter.

What is significant about the case from a defense perspective, is that even though the respondent-attorney violated a number of rules, including Rules 19-308.1, 19-308.4(c)-(e), and the court found four aggravating factors and only two mitigation factors, Bar Counsel still did not seek disbarment. Rather, Bar Counsel and the Court of Appeals found that an indefinite suspension was the appropriate sanction. In so doing, the Court clarified the difference between improper conduct (and the use of profane language) that results because of "purely private" conduct and conduct that is "related to the practice of law" and which negatively impacts "the perception of the legal profession…." Id. at 20, 279 A.3d at 950-51. If the conduct at issue is related to the practice of law in any way, it will result in a sanction.

Goodell DeVries defends various professionals in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia, including lawyers and law firms. Many of these cases are ethics matters involving Bar Counsel. If you have questions about the above or are a Maryland lawyer facing discipline, please contact us at