Thanks to self-represented litigator William Bond's intervention, those following the well-shrouded circumstances of prominent Baltimore lawyer Kenneth Ravenell's representation of accused narco-mogul Richard Byrd now know this: Ravenell was "terminated" as Byrd's attorney on Oct. 10.
Four days after his secret termination, on Oct. 14, City Paper reported that "court records indicate Ravenell still represents Byrd." But the court records were wrong, and were only corrected after Bond filed a motion to intervene in the case, on Oct. 29, seeking to make public what happened in a scheduled Sept. 11 "attorney inquiry hearing" involving Ravenell and Byrd.
What little is known about Ravenell's apparent professional troubles, which include his departure from Murphy, Falcon, and Murphy, the firm where he'd long been a partner, came to light after a superseding indictment was unsealed in late July in Byrd's case. The charging document appears to allege that Ravenell, who has not been accused of breaking the law, assisted the conspiracy by helping to "coordinate Byrd's efforts to conduct counter-surveillance of law enforcers' lengthy probe into his alleged nationwide drug-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracy," as City Paper reported on Sept. 23.
U.S. magistrate judge Timothy Sullivan denied Bond's motion as "moot," since his order affected the correction of the case record to reflect Ravenell's termination after the attorney-inquiry hearing, which, though originally scheduled for Sept. 11, was continued on Oct. 10. Sullivan declined to unseal what happened at the hearing, though, writing that "the very nature of any attorney inquiry hearing in this Court involves the disclosure of sensitive and confidential matters between the defendant and his or her attorney," so "permitting public access to the record of the attorney inquiry hearings in this case is not warranted and that there are no alternatives to sealing that would protect the important interests at stake."
Bond responded to Sullivan's Oct. 31 order with a Nov. 10 filing that points out what he sees as many shortcomings in Sullivan's handling of the matter. He argues that the "ruling that attorney inquiry hearings are automatically closed to the public without review" may be flawed, since "it would appear that the only appellate court to opine on that subject has rejected it in favor of openness to the public." Despite "ruling in the government's favor to unseal this entire case," Bond's motion continues, "this court has kept, and seemingly continues to keep, parts of this case secret."
Indeed, the Byrd docket has a long and noticeable gap between Sept. 16 and Oct. 15, where seven docket entries are missing just as the issue of Ravenell's termination was ripe. Bond's reconsideration motion notes that "any entries and counter-entries by the government and Mr. Ravenell regarding the government's obvious notification to the court about a 'notice of potential attorney conflict of interest' and/or similarly titled documents" are missing from the court record, as is "the court's order terminating Mr. Ravenell as counsel for Mr. Byrd." He also argues that "if no attorney disqualification order exists, the court must supply the public with one, and tell the public in detail why it took the action it did."
In sum, Bond states, "the docket in this case is still, seemingly, not accurate," and "a strong presumption could be weighed in the public's favor that their rights have been ignored in this case." All Sullivan's order says "is that making these records public is 'not warranted,'" yet "both the press and this movant . . . want to know what happened."
Bond, who runs the "Baltimore Corruption Wire" Facebook page, describes himself in the filing as someone who "owns a public policy initiative." His long history of litigation over alleged misdeeds by federal lawyers and judges has been much covered by the press over the years, and invariably mention that, decades ago in Ohio, he killed his father.