The defense team for malpractice attorney Stephen L. Snyder, who is awaiting trial for federal extortion charges, is asking to withdraw from his case.

The move came hours after a telephone conference call Friday in which the judge overseeing the case, George Russell, said Snyder had contacted his chambers directly instead of communicating through his attorneys.

Russell said Snyder was “disorganized and emotional” on the call, and noted that Snyder apologized.

“I was extremely troubled by it,” said Russell, who later issued an order saying that he would consider sanctions or holding Snyder in contempt if he contacted his chambers again.

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Snyder’s attorneys, led by Arnold Weiner, later filed a motion asking to withdraw from the case, though the document itself was filed under seal because it contains attorney-client privileged information.

Weiner declined to comment Friday night. Snyder also declined to comment.

Just two days earlier, Weiner appeared before judges of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to make an oral argument in a related matter concerning grand jury subpoenas. The appeal has been handled under seal, and the oral arguments were also sealed.

The Banner previously reported that federal authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into Snyder allegedly directing another attorney to destroy a memo, according to a telephone conference held last June. Snyder’s case has been in limbo as the matter plays out.

The court initially failed to cut off the first two minutes of Wednesday’s appellate arguments, and a Banner reporter heard Weiner telling the judges that the matter concerned attorney Andrew Graham and his firm, Kramon and Graham; attorney Eric Yaffe and his firm, Lathrop GPM, and an individual named Michelle Sanders, whose role was not clear.

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Weiner said the district court had “committed reversible error when it denied Mr. Snyder’s motion to quash the post-indictment grand jury subpoenas in this case.” The audio was later removed.

Snyder was long one of the most successful plaintiffs’ attorneys in Maryland, winning huge judgments and settlements. His firm’s commercials used the tagline, “Don’t just sue them. Snyder them.”

In 2018, after handling a series of cases involving people with organ transplant problems at the University of Maryland Medical System, federal prosecutors say that Snyder proposed that the hospital pay him $25 million for a sham consulting agreement. He said in exchange, he would hold off on a negative press blitz regarding the transplant program.

Hospital officials said they became uncomfortable and reached out to the FBI, which recorded a series of phone calls and an Aug. 23, 2018, meeting between Snyder and hospital officials. Snyder was indicted in 2020 on federal extortion charges.

Snyder has asked that the case be dismissed, accusing prosecutors of misconduct. He’s said they selectively edited his comments, “intentionally tampered” with his efforts to make sure the agreement with the hospital was legal and ethical, and refused to turn over exculpatory materials.

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Snyder agreed to a temporary suspension of his law license following his indictment. But in January, he asked for it back and the request was granted.

“Mr. Snyder has not been found guilty or convicted of a serious crime, such as would be required to impose an immediate temporary suspension ... nor has discipline been imposed against Mr. Snyder in any other jurisdiction, nor has a hearing judge made findings of fact and conclusions of law concerning the allegations of the petition for this Court to review,” wrote Maryland Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader. “This Court therefore currently lacks a basis to continue Mr. Snyder’s suspension.”

Federal prosecutors had previously sought to disqualify Weiner from the case, and Russell said in the June telephone conference that the grand jury battle could affect that motion.

“It seems to me that memo, that is the subject of this case, is certainly relevant if not a critical piece of evidence that, if indeed has to be disclosed, could be germane to your availability as a witness and could affect materially the motion to disqualify,” Russell said. “It could, in some way, affect the merits of the motion to dismiss the indictment.”

Now Weiner is poised to exit the case.

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On Friday’s call, Russell said Snyder had called his chambers on Tuesday morning and spoke to a member of his staff. Russell said that Snyder wanted to sell property in New York City — a time share at the St. Regis Hotel — that was listed as collateral as part of his release bond, and wanted to ask if he could sell it. Russell told the participants on the call that Snyder can’t.

Weiner told Russell that he heard from Snyder “in a passing way that I took to mean that he had undertaken to speak to somebody at the clerk’s office about his collateral, which did not make me happy.”

“Well I’m sure you’re not too happy that he contacted chambers directly,” Russell said.

Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. His book, "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption," was released by Random House in 2021 and became an HBO miniseries. 

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