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Administrative Law – Maryland Real Estate Comm – Discipline of real estate professional for felony conviction

10-28-2011 Maryland:

Administrative Law – Maryland Real Estate Comm – Discipline of real estate professional for felony conviction

In this case, we are asked to review the decision of the Maryland Real Estate Commission, Respondent, to revoke the real estate licenses1 of Joel T. Pautsch, Petitioner, pursuant to Sections 17-322(b)(24)(i) of the Business Occupations and Professions Article, Maryland Code (2000, 2004 Repl. Vol.),2 based upon his convictions for child abuse. Mr. Pautsch sought judicial review of the Commission’s decision in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City,3 which affirmed in a Memorandum Opinion penned by Judge Barry G. Williams, in which he reasoned that there was “competent, material and substantial evidence to support” the Commission’s decision, and “there [was] no evidence to support the allegation that the decision of the Maryland Real Estate Commission was either arbitrary or capricious.” The Court of Special Appeals affirmed in an unreported opinion,4 concluding that the Commission’s “estimation of [Mr. Pautsch’s] trustworthiness was neither arbitrary nor capricious,” and that Mr. Pautsch “failed to demonstrate any factual or legal error in the Commission’s decision.” We granted certiorari.

In the case before us, it is undisputed that Section 17-322(b)(24)(i) of the Business Occupations and Professions Article authorizes the Commission to “suspend or revoke” a real estate professional’s licenses if, “under the laws of the United States or of any state,” he is convicted of “a felony.” Beyond lawfulness and authority, then, the only issue is whether Mr. Pautsch has shown that the Commission’s sanction was so extreme and egregious that it amounted to arbitrary and capricious agency action. Based upon the testimony and the exhibits before it, the Commission found that Mr. Pautsch had been engaged in sexually abusive behavior towards minor children throughout a “fifteen-year period,” and that, according to the Commission, showed a lack of responsibility, maturity, and trustworthiness on the part of Mr. Pautsch, as a real estate professional, which prevents a finding that the Commission’s sanction was arbitrary or capricious. Judgement Affirmed.

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