Ethics

‘Disturbingly inappropriate’ emails bring suspension for former judge and lawyer

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An administrative law judge and government lawyer have been suspended from law practice for participating in an email chain with a group of lawyers calling themselves the “Forum of Hate.”

The Maryland Court of Appeals indefinitely suspended James Markey and Charles Hancock for participating in the email chain during work hours using government email addresses over a seven-year period.

The emails made “disturbingly inappropriate and offensive statements,” the court of appeals said. A hearing judge had labeled the messages “racist, misogynic, xenophobic and homophobic.”

The Legal Profession Blog links to the June 26 decision.

Markey was a veterans law judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Hancock was an attorney adviser at the board who helped the judges draft opinions in appeals of veterans’ claims for benefits. Three other lawyers in the email chain were not members of the Maryland bar.

Hancock retired from his position, and Markey was fired.

The court of appeals cited these examples of the highly offensive emails:

• Commenting on a photo of an all-white Little League team, Markey asked where the white sheets were. “‘Bonfire’ after every victory,” Markey said, a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

• Hancock referred to the chief veterans law judge, an African American woman, as “G-Pot.” The name was short for “Ghetto Hippopotamus.” He also called the judge “a despicable impersonation of a human woman, who ought to [have] her cervix yanked out of her by the Silence of the Lamb[s] guy and force-fed to her.”

• Hancock referred to “a spot open in AA’s Forum of Gayness,” a reference to a lawyer who worked at the veterans board.

• Markey referred to a bar and said it had a “creepy looking clientele, and I’m no homophobe.”

• Markey referred to a woman who was vice chairman of the board as “baby t.” The name was short for “baby talk,” a disparaging reference to her tone of voice.

• Hancock asked about a “chick” in a photo and said, “Like to have my pee pee introduced to her va jay jay.”

• Hancock said a lawyer had nice “DSLs,” which stood for “d- - - -sucking lips.”

• Markey altered a news article about a suspended employee of the sheriff’s office. Markey altered the article to say the employee’s supporters got into a heated debate with an opponent, “a fast food working, basketball type playing man.” Markey’s alteration said the opponent “left, timidly, when 11 people causally tossed ropes at him.”

• Markey referred to the chief veterans law judge as a “total b- - - -.”

The court of appeals said Markey’s and Hancock’s conduct was related to the practice of law because they made demeaning remarks about colleagues and work at a time that they were supposed to be working. And their conduct wasn’t purely private because the discovered emails led to stories in multiple news outlets.

The court said the lawyers’ conduct violated an ethics rule barring lawyers from showing bias or prejudice while working in a professional capacity, based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.

“Markey’s and Hancock’s statements demonstrating bias and prejudice speak for themselves and constitute abhorrent conduct,” the court of appeals said.

“Markey’s and Hancock’s misconduct clearly had the potential to undermine the work of the board and the public’s confidence in that work, as well as damage the public’s perception of the legal profession, the board, the department, and the federal government at large,” the court added.

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