Lawyers accused of misconduct for offensive, inappropriate emails about colleagues, minorities

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Two lawyers should be disciplined or subjected to remedial action for participating in an email chain with a group of people calling themselves the “Forum of Hate,” according to the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland.

One of the lawyers, James Markey, was an administrative law judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, according to the petition for discipline filed May 30. The other, Charles Hancock, was an attorney adviser at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The Legal Profession Blog has coverage.

Both lawyers used their official government email accounts to send and receive offensive and inappropriate emails with three other group members, according to the petition. The three others are not members of the Maryland bar.

According to the petition, Markey and Hancock used offensive terms to refer to minorities and women, participated in email chains mocking officials’ accents, and participated in email chains using gay slurs.

Hancock referred to a chief administrative law judge as “G-Pot,” which was short for “ghetto hippopotamus,” according to the petition.

The emails were discovered by the Veterans’ Affairs Office of Inspector General during an unrelated investigation. Hancock retired from his position in January 2016. A November 2017 decision by the Merit Systems Protection Board authorized the removal of Markey from his position.

The petition and the Merit Systems Protection Board included several examples from the emails, including these:

• Markey altered a news article about a sheriff who posted gun rights videos while shouting obscenities about liberals, minorities and the Second Amendment. Markey altered the article to say the sheriff’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 … tossed ropes at him.”

• Hancock said the employee described as G-Pot was “a despicable impersonation of a human woman, who ought to [have] her cervix yanked out of her by the Silence of the Lamb guy, and force fed to her.”

• Hancock used offensive terms when he said there were no minorities on his son’s Little League team. Markey responded, “Nice, but where are the white sheets? Gotta start them when they are young.”

Markey had argued before the Merit Systems Protection Board that the emails were a way to blow off steam by making members of the group laugh with over-the-top comments.

The board noted that there was no evidence that Markey had written a decision discriminating against a veteran based on race, sexual orientation, sex or national origin.

But the Legal Profession Blog notes a March 2018 lawsuit filed by two veterans’ groups that cited the “Forum of Hate” emails. The lawsuit sought records of decisions to determine whether there was bias in the adjudication of claims for disability benefits.

The case has settled, according to a May stipulation filed with the court.

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