Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman filed the complaint that got Stephen P. Bourexis suspended from practicing law for six months, according to a report by the state Attorney Grievance Commission.
Mr. Hickman also used his office to investigate financial misconduct allegations against the prominent Westminster defense attorney and pressed the commission to impose sanctions, the report said.
The attorneys admit a strong dislike for each other, in the courtroom and out. The prosecutor has more than once called the defense attorney a liar; Mr. Bourexis has filed lawsuits -- and Attorney Grievance Commission complaints -- claiming Mr. Hickman misuses his office.
But Mr. Hickman says that was not the reason that he pursued the allegations against Mr. Bourexis.
Prosecutors rarely file grievances against or conduct investigations of defense attorneys. Mr. Bourexis' law partner claims Mr. Hickman was retaliating against the attorney; Mr. Hickman says he acted because possible misconduct was uncovered.
Mr. Hickman's investigation of the Bourexis case drew a rebuke from the Attorney Grievance Commission inquiry panel that reviewed it, says a confidential commission report, obtained by The Sun.
"The complaint to the Attorney Grievance Commission . . . , which is the basis for this inquiry, was filed by the State's Attorney for Carroll County; i.e., Thomas Hickman . . ." the report says. "Perhaps a referral to the Attorney Grievance Commission without continued involvement by the State's Attorney's Office would have been more appropriate."
Mr. Hickman initiated the investigation -- and filed the complaint in April 1992 -- after a client of Mr. Bourexis contacted his office bTC because she was having trouble collecting $40,000 she had lent the lawyer in the 1980s. Mr. Hickman's investigation revealed a pattern of Mr. Bourexis borrowing money from clients. Some of those loans were in arrears, and one client had to sue to protect his interests, the report says.
According to the report, at least one assistant state's attorney and an investigator looked into Mr. Bourexis' finances. And, according to the client of Mr. Bourexis who called the prosecutor's office, another assistant state's attorney escorted her to hearings before the commission inquiry panel.
Esther P. Lynn, the client, did not complain to the commission and "never intended to do so," she said. "I'm the one who's hurt, and I never wanted any of this to go this far."
As a result of the hearing and a recommendation for sanctions by the inquiry panel, Mr. Bourexis last month agreed to a six-month suspension instead of further hearings. The suspension began Friday and will end June 10. He declined to comment for this article.
According to Ms. Lynn and Attorney Grievance Commission records, Ms. Lynn approached Mr. Hickman's office for advice on how to handle collection of the money she lent to Mr. Bourexis, who was behind in his payments. She later decided to settle the matter privately.
Mr. Hickman declined to discuss details of the investigation but confirmed the commission's account.