District Court Remands Attorney’s Attempt to Move Discipline Case To Federal District Court


This case deals with the somewhat tricky rules of federal jurisdiction in the unusual context of a lawyer disciplinary proceeding. Lawyer discipline cases are creatures of state law. In Maryland, the case is heard by a trial court. Either party (the lawyer or the administrator) can then appeal to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which has final say on all attorney discipline issues.

Here, the lawyer attempted to remove the lawyer discipline case to federal court. The district court remanded the case to Maryland. The lawyer then made a second attempt at removal, this time arguing a different basis for federal jurisdiction. The district court again remanded the disciplinary case to the Maryland courts.

The court summarizes the procedural history of the case in this way:

This Court has previously granted a Motion to Remand in this case. Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. Rheinstein, Civ. No. MJG-16-1591, ECF No. 30 (Mar. 17, 2017) (“First Remand Order”). Defendant alleges that the existence of new facts warrant the filing of a successive Notice of Removal.

The underlying cause of action remains the same. On February 17, 2016 the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland (“AGC”) filed, in the Maryland Court of Appeals, a Petition for Disciplinary of Remedial Actions against Jason Edward Rheinstein (“Rheinstein”). On February 19, 2016, the Court of Appeals of Maryland transmitted the Petition to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County to hold a judicial hearing pursuant to Maryland Rule 16-757.

On May 23, 2016, Rheinstein filed his first Notice of Removal, contending that this Court can exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the case under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (federal question jurisdiction) and 28 U.S.C. § 1442 (federal officer jurisdiction). Civ. No. MJG-16-1591, ECF No. 1. AGC filed a Motion to Remand, which this court granted on March 17, 2017. In its First Remand Order, this Court found no federal jurisdiction based on a federal question, no jurisdiction based on federal officer standing, and that federal abstention principles favored a remand. Following the Order, trial was set in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County for September 5, 2017.

On Friday, September 1, 2017, Rheinstein filed a second Notice of Removal in this Court, contending that AGC’s recent interrogatory responses and deposition testimony gave rise to new and different grounds for removal. Notice of Removal ¶ 4, ECF No. 1. The state court proceeding was stayed on September 5, 2017, the next business day.

Analysis: The district court found that the removal petition was defective because the lawyer did not articulate a valid basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction. Simply because the lawyer may have committed some of the alleged violations in federal court cases did not confer federal subject matter jurisdiction on the district court. Further, there is a strong federal policy to avoid becoming involved in State disciplinary matters.  Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982). See also  Telco Commc’ns, Inc. v. Carbaugh, 885 F.2d 1225, 1228 (4th Cir. 1989). The opinion, in my view, correctly remanded the disciplinary case to the Maryland courts.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

Source: Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. RHEINSTEIN, Dist. Court, D. Maryland 2017 – Google Scholar

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