ANNAPOLIS – An attorney for Ronald Price, the former Anne Arundel school teacher convicted of having sex with his students, has been ordered to turn over documents to the Attorney Grievance Commission.
The Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the attorney, who was not identified, could not refuse to give up documents from the case by invoking his right against self-incrimination.
Price, who died of cancer in January, had filed a complaint with the grievance commission “alleging numerous instances of impropriety” by the attorneys who represented him in his trial.
“They may well be guilty of criminal negligence due to their avarice, incompetence and conflict of interests,” he charged in his complaint to the commission.
The grievance commission keeps records of its investigations under seal and the attorney in question was not identified in appeals court records.
But when Price requested a new trial in July 1997, he said the attorneys who represented him — Timothy F. Umbreit and Jonathan S. Resnick — had exploited his case “for personal financial gain, notoriety, press coverage and political advancement.”
Price’s next attorney, T. Joseph Touhey, on Friday identified Umbreit and Resnick as the targets of the grievance, saying they had wrongly entered into contracts selling the media rights to the story.
“Those guys have got those damn contracts and if you look at them, those guys did exactly what Price said,” in his complaint, Touhey said. “They cut themselves in for large amounts of money.”
Neither Resnick nor Umbreit could be contacted Friday.
Only one of the two fought a subpoena from the grievance commission to produce “all files, financial records, ledger cards and bank statements” relating to his representation of Price.
Benjamin Lipsitz, who represented the unnamed attorney before the appeals court, declined to identify him Friday. But The (Annapolis) Capital on Feb. 11 identified Resnick as the attorney fighting the subpoena.
The unnamed attorney argued that being forced to turn over the documents would deprive him “of his right against self- incrimination.”
In his motion to quash the subpoena, Lipsitz argued that because Price alleged “criminal negligence” by his lawyers, the subpoena was “an attempt at compelled self-incrimination” in violation of his client’s Fifth Amendment rights.
A Baltimore County Circuit Court disagreed and the appeals court yesterday upheld that ruling.
The appeals court said that while the Fifth Amendment protects people from having to disclose documents that are illegal to possess, it does not cover the content of those documents.
Even if the “act of producing the documents was … incriminating,” Judge Dale R. Cathell wrote for the court, the unnamed attorney would still not have Fifth Amendment protection.
The Supreme Court has said under the “collective entity doctrine” that the Fifth Amendment applies to individuals, not corporations or other organizations like law firms, Cathell wrote. And the “required records exception” prohibits custodians of public records from invoking the Fifth, even if the records are incriminating.
“The records subpoenaed have public aspects. We have noted on numerous occasions that one of the purposes of attorney disciplinary proceedings is to protect the public,” Cathell wrote.
Lipsitz declined comment on the appeals court ruling.
Price, a social studies teacher, drama club adviser and softball coach at Northeast High School in Pasadena, said on the “Geraldo!” television show in April 1993 that he had had sexual relations with “six or seven students” during his 25-year teaching career.
He was convicted in September 1993 of three counts of unnatural and perverted sexual practices and one count of fourth- degree sexual offense. He received a 26-year sentence, which was later reduced to 21 years.
In January, suffering from terminal lung cancer, Price’s sentence was converted to house arrest. He died within days of that ruling, Touhey said.