The Maryland Court of Appeals disbarred Darlene Smith, a former partner in Drinker Biddle & Reath's Washington office, for altering documents as part of her application to the D.C. Bar, according to an opinion (PDF) released today.
The Maryland court issued an order disbarring Smith effective Feb. 2, but didn't publish an explanation for its decision until today.
Smith joined the firm's D.C. office as a partner in the labor and employment practice group in December 2008. Reached by phone this morning, Smith said that she is no longer practicing law but declined to comment further. Drinker spokesman John Byrne confirmed that Smith left the firm in January 2010. He declined to comment on the Maryland proceedings.
According to today’s opinion from the Maryland court, Smith was admitted to the Maryland State Bar in June 1997. She was admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, but was never a member of the D.C. Bar.
In January 2009, Smith applied to join the D.C. Bar. Under local rules, Smith was allowed to practice in Washington federal court as long as she made certain disclosures that her practice was limited to the federal court and Maryland courts. She was also allowed to practice for a year in Washington under the supervision of a D.C. Bar-admitted attorney, assuming she applied to the D.C. Bar within 90 days of starting her practice in the District.
According to today’s opinion, Smith altered documents that she submitted with her application to make it seem like she had made the required statements about the limits of her practice when, in fact, she had not.
Following a meeting with Drinker’s general counsel in January 2010, Smith wrote a letter to the D.C. Bar Admissions Committee the following month admitting to doctoring copies of correspondence on firm stationary and from other firms she had worked at to include those disclosures.
Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Robert McDonald wrote in the court’s opinion that Smith’s actions involved “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation.”
“The obstruction of a bar inquiry through the submission of fabricated evidence by an experienced member of the bar is an instance of dishonesty that incorporates a number of factors that we have deemed aggravating,” McDonald wrote. He added, “The nature of the violation, coupled with the aggravating factors, makes disbarment appropriate.”