Maryland's highest court has disbarred a former Western Maryland judge who was convicted of stealing from his law clients.

The Court of Appeals disbarred Paul Ottinger, 75, a former Washington County Circuit Court judge who is serving an 8 1/2-year prison sentence at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County.

Ottinger was convicted of federal bank fraud and mail fraud in October 1987. Also, he pleaded guilty to three forgery counts for stealing money from his law clients and borrowing money illegally from Hagerstown banks.

He was sentenced to 5 1/2 years on the federal charges, and the beginning of the state sentence is being served concurrently with the federal term.

A tentative March 1991 parole date has been set for Ottinger, who pleaded with his sentencing judge not to send him to a state prison, where he expected to encounter inmates he had sentenced while on the bench.

Ottinger was arrested in April 1987, three months after he disappeared from his Hagerstown home. FBI agents caught up with him in York, Pa., where he had been using a name of a boy who died at age 7 in 1921.

Although laywers can appeal disbarment, the notice from the Court of Appeals, entered last month, said Ottinger was disbarred by consent.