Maryland Lawyer disbarred for tampering with firm's computer files

By Pat Murphy

The Daily Record Newswire

BOSTON, MA --- A talented young Maryland lawyer decided to spread his wings and start his own firm.

The only problem was that he thought he could pull a fast one. Too smart for his own good, the young litigator tampered with his old firm's computer files in an effort to have a tidy little client base waiting for him when he set out on his own.

Gregory Raymond Keiner at one time had a bright future as a lawyer. Now his dreams have turned to ashes.

In February 2003, Keiner became an associate at The Law Offices of Evan K. Thalenberg, a Baltimore firm that specializes in lead paint litigation. Keiner found success at the firm, making $269,000 in 2008.

Not bad for someone who passed the bar in 2002.

In 2008, Keiner decided that it was high time to set off on his own. But his plans included some dirty tricks.

According to court records, from June 2008 until March 2009, Keiner began altering and deleting documents in the firm's computer system in order to give the false impression that certain client files had been closed.

One trick allegedly involved changing the results of a client's blood tests as they appeared in the case file. By altering files to show lower-than-actual blood-lead levels, he justified the drafting of termination letters to clients of the firm.

Of course, the false termination letters were never sent. Instead, they appeared in the client's file to give the false impression to others in the firm that the case had been closed.

Later investigation revealed that Keiner -- using his own letterhead -- solicited approximately 200 potential clients for his startup while working for the firm. He later admitted that he used the firm's resources in his effort to establish a client base for his new practice.

The firm discovered what Keiner was up to when a client contacted the firm and produced a letter from Keiner on Keiner's own letterhead. When confronted with the solicitation letter, Keiner allegedly admitted that he had altered computer records.

Another lawyer at the firm was tasked with the job of determining the scope of Keiner's deception. Court records indicate that Keiner had taken 60 to 70 client files for his new firm.

The firm brought Keiner's shenanigans to the attention of the state's bar counsel and disciplinary proceedings commenced. A state judge who heard the charges determined that Keiner's acts of altering and deleting documents within the firm's client files constituted criminal acts in violation of Maryland law and the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Keiner's only real defense was the all-to-familiar refrain that he abused alcohol and suffered from depression.

But an unsympathetic Maryland Court of Appeals decided earlier this month that disbarment was the only appropriate sanction for Keiner's dishonesty.

The state high court said that Keiner's misconduct "was caused, not by mental illness or alcohol abuse but rather, as [the hearing judge] found, by [Keiner's] 'desire to keep for himself more of the income he had been generating for the firm.' Put simply, [Keiner's] conduct was dishonest, it was intentional, and it was solely motivated by the desire for personal gain."

The court concluded that, given Keiner's "intentional dishonest misconduct, motivated exclusively by his desire for personal gain, the totality of the mitigation [he] has proven does not constitute the 'compelling extenuating circumstances' necessary to permit a sanction less than disbarment." (Attorney Grievance Commission v. Keiner)

Published: Tue, Sep 6, 2011

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