EASTON -- A well-known Eastern Shore lawyer who spanked a woman client and a secretary has lost the right to practice law in Maryland for at least two years, the state Court of Appeals announced yesterday.
With one dissenting opinion, the seven judges on the state's highest court ordered that George J. Goldsborough Jr. suspend his law practice immediately, thus bringing about the likely end to a career the Talbot County attorney began in 1950.
The judges' decision, which came more than three months after they heard arguments about the unusual case, allows Mr. Goldsborough to apply for reinstatement to the state bar in two ** years.
He would have to persuade the judges "that the conduct which necessitated his suspension will never be repeated," the ruling says.
Mr. Goldsborough, who will turn 68 this month, has denied most of the allegations against him. He did eventually admit to once spanking his secretary but insisted it was at her suggestion. She testified that he spanked her repeatedly -- several times on her bare bottom -- because he believed she was a "bad girl."
Last November, a Wicomico County judge concluded that Mr. Goldsborough lied when he disputed her testimony and again when he denied spanking one woman client and kissing another who was going through a divorce.
"It is most regrettable that, despite his many significant professional accomplishments, Goldsborough clearly has a serious problem which he cannot or will not acknowledge, let alone control," the Court of Appeals wrote in its majority decision yesterday.
Mr. Goldsborough, once considered the patriarch of the Talbot County legal community, declined to comment on yesterday's disciplinary action, saying he had not yet received a copy of the 36-page ruling.
Pamela A. Bresnahan, one of two lawyers who represented Mr. Goldsborough at his February hearing before the court, said she was "extremely disappointed" with the ruling.
Noting that the case achieved notoriety at a time when women's issues were getting much media attention, Ms. Bresnahan suggested public sentiment may have been against Mr. Goldsborough.
"The timing couldn't have been worse for our client," she said.
Mr. Goldsborough's troubles began last year when the state Attorney Grievance Commission charged the Easton lawyer with misconduct and with making false statements to a panel fTC investigating the matter.
His secretary, who was 17 when she joined Mr. Goldsborough's law firm through a high school work-study program in 1986, told the commission her boss spanked her on several occasions that year as punishment for making mistakes in typing and spelling.
Yesterday, she said she supported the ruling. "I'm glad that the action was taken," she said. "My whole intent was never to hurt him, just to make sure he never did this again. Unfortunately, it came down to this."
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Robert M. Bell called Mr. Goldsborough's conduct "reprehensible" but said an indefinite suspension was too harsh.
Since last July 1, 19 Maryland lawyers have been disbarred and 14 suspended, according to the grievance commission.