The Maryland Supreme Court has suspended a Montgomery County attorney indefinitely for obstructing a contentious divorce case and making misleading statements about the proceedings to judges and opposing attorneys.
Attorney Richard L. Sloane is allowed to apply for reinstatement after six months.
In a 38-page opinion, Judge Michele D. Hotten found that Sloane’s conduct “obstructed and delayed the litigation” in the divorce and custody case “without any objective purpose.”
According to the report, Sloane represented a man in divorce proceedings initiated by his wife in January 2018. Sloane did not respond by the disclosure deadline, prompting the court to order responses after the woman’s attorney filed a forced motion.
When Sloane provided the discovery materials, they were disorganized and required hours of sorting and indexing by the woman’s attorney, according to findings by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Bibi M. Berry, who heard Sloane’s attorney’s complaint.
Sloane also opposed standard interrogations, claiming a non-existent “doctor/patient privilege” in response. When the husband was deposed in July 2018, Sloane raised “baseless objections and language objections,” according to the expert’s report, and encouraged his client to refuse to respond to reasonable questions from opposing counsel.
The woman’s attorney, Mandy Miliman, ended the testimony after an hour. Miliman responded to Sloane’s investigative requests and declined to schedule a deposition for her client until the husband’s deposition was completed, prompting Sloane to file a competing enforcement enforcement motion.
At a hearing on the motions, a judge called Sloane’s conduct during testimony “a complete and total disregard for what the law and rules and the code of conduct of attorneys say,” the statement said.
During the husband’s second testimony, and despite the intervention of a judge, Sloane raised 277 objections, many of which the report found to lack “identifiable basis.”
The hearing judge also found that Sloane had misled opposing counsel as to whether the court had consented to proceeding and had repeatedly misrepresented the case history to other judges who had worked on the case. The case was settled in September 2019.
In response to Sloane’s conduct on the case, Sloane’s client was repeatedly ordered to pay his wife’s legal fees.
Hotten found that Sloane’s actions violated the ethics of the Maryland attorneys regarding frivolous or wrongful claims, openness to the court, fairness to the opposing party, respect for the rights of others, and delay in litigation.
Maryland Bar Counsel recommended disqualification as a sanction, while Sloane called for a six-month suspension or a sanction less severe than a ban or indefinite suspension.
Hotten included an indefinite suspension with the right to seek reinstatement after six months as appropriate.
“The defendant’s unwillingness or inability to assess his wrongful conduct is critical,” the judge wrote. “There is not a single case on record where the interviewee acknowledges his inappropriate behavior.”
Hotten acknowledged that the discovery was a “distressing experience” for attorneys and that conflicting personalities “can permeate litigation through frivolous motions and infuriating arguments, which the defendant here engaged in.”
“This behavior is corrosive to the legal profession and particularly dangerous to the public when attorneys fail to recognize their wrongdoing,” she wrote.
However, the judiciary also found that since Sloane’s misconduct did not involve theft, fraud, misappropriation of funds, or harm to a customer, a harsher sentence was not necessary. The misconduct only affects one case, Hotten wrote.
Sloane, who was admitted to the Maryland bar in 2003, also has no criminal record.
Three judges disagreed with the sanction but otherwise concurred with Hotten’s opinion.
Judge Brynya M. Booth authored the 5-page dissenting opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader and Justice Steven B. Gould. Booth argued that Sloane should have received a definitive six-month suspension because the bar could not prove that Sloane’s client was harmed by his conduct.
Attorney Lydia E. Lawless did not respond to a request for comment as of press time. Sloane could not be reached for comment.