CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has indefinitely suspended the law license of a Maryland attorney.
On Nov. 9, the Justices ordered the suspension of Candace Calhoun by reciprocal agreement with the Court of Appeals of Maryland, which suspended her last year. Pennsylvania has suspended her by reciprocal agreement, too.
Calhoun, of Frostburg, lost her licenses for letting a client down almost every way an attorney could.
In 1999, Paul Schell retained her in a sexual harassment claim against his employer. He paid her $5,000, which she would earn at $150 an hour. They agreed that she would send monthly statements after depleting the $5,000.
In 2000, she filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and in a federal court in Maryland.
In 2001, she asked Schell for $5,000 to cover depositions. Schell paid it.
She didn't depose anybody, though she attended a deposition of her client.
She recommended that he accept a settlement of $8,000. She didn't tell him her fees had run to more than that.
In 2002, Calhoun received the settlement check. She put the proceeds in her own checking account and commingled it with her money.
In 2003, she told Schell she had the money. She sent him a bill for $9,500.
Schell complained and, in 2006, the Court of Appeals of Maryland indefinitely suspended her. They found the fees excessive and unreasonable.
The Court found that she failed to provide him monthly statements, keep him informed, interview or depose witnesses, conduct an investigation, act diligently, represent him competently, explain matters to him or keep his property safe.
The Court concluded that Calhoun misled Schell and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The West Virginia Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a reciprocal action and set a hearing before a subcommittee of its hearing panel.
Calhoun did not appear at the hearing.
The subcommittee recommended indefinite suspension and the Supreme Court of Appeals adopted the recommendation this May.
Calhoun moved "pro se," by herself, to vacate the ruling. The Justices let her file a brief.
She argued that West Virginia does not impose reciprocal sanctions if the other jurisdiction violated due process, if there was infirmity of proof of misconduct, if the same discipline would result in grave injustice, or if the misconduct warrants a different type of discipline.
She claimed she could establish all four elements, but the Justices agreed that she didn't establish any of them.
"The Maryland court's determination that Ms. Calhoun's conduct was deceitful and misleading was clearly supported by the evidence," they wrote, noting that the Maryland court chose indefinite suspension over disbarment because her conduct was not intentionally fraudulent.
"The Court also took into account the fact that the charges arose out of a single incident and that Ms. Calhoun had no prior disciplinary history."
She can apply for reinstatement in West Virginia once Maryland reinstates her.
She was admitted to the West Virginia Bar in 1994.