Longtime political gadfly Robin Ficker, a lawyer and unsuccessful candidate for the Montgomery County school board this year, has been accused by Maryland's Attorney Grievance Commission of placing misleading newspaper advertisements for his Bethesda law practice and of twice failing to appear in court to represent clients.
Ficker, a former state delegate, faces a disciplinary hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court on the charges, which were filed June 9 by the 10-member commission, an ethics panel created in Annapolis by the state Court of Appeals in 1975.
Melvin Hirshman, the commission's attorney, said Ficker's conduct came under review after questionable advertisements for his law practice appeared in The Washington Post and The Washington Times for two weeks in February 1987. According to court documents, the advertisements read: "Palimony suits against wealthy men, Robin Ficker, Atty., 652-1500."
In a court document accusing Ficker of violating the code of ethics for Maryland lawyers, Hirshman charged that Ficker was aware that Maryland courts do not recognize lawsuits for palimony. Palimony is a slang term for court-ordered alimony in the case of a separated couple who lived together without being married.
In the same document, Hirshman accused Ficker of neglecting to appear in Frederick County District Court for a client's trial on a traffic charge in October 1986. Ficker failed to show up in the same court for another client's trial on a similar charge in June 1987, Hirshman alleged.
Ficker, who could not be reached yesterday, told lawyers representing the commission that he did not believe the palimony advertisements were misleading. According to a court document, he told the lawyers that he intended to take only cases in which couples had made "contractual promises of some sort, or enforceable agreements . . . . "
He told the lawyers that he withdrew the advertisements after two weeks because he decided they were "tacky."
As for the trials in Frederick County, Ficker blamed his failure to appear on paperwork mixups in his office.
If a Circuit Court judge finds merit in the grievance commission's charges, Hirshman said, the state Court of Appeals will decide what sanction to impose on Ficker.
In the 30 to 50 cases of misconduct that typically come before the Court of Appeals each year, Hirshman said, sanctions have ranged from warnings to disbarment.
A Circuit Court hearing has not yet been scheduled.