Federally indicted attorney Stephen Snyder asks for law license back

Personal injury attorney Stephen Snyder, whose well-known slogan “Don’t just sue them, Snyder them” could be seen in TV commercials, would like to start Snyder-ing people again.

Snyder, who gave up his law license in 2020 after federal prosecutors charged him with extortion, filed court papers this week asking the Supreme Court of Maryland to reinstate his right to practice law, calling the charges against him “extremely weak.” The 46-page filing lays out why Snyder, 75, believes he should be allowed to regain his law license, and also lays out why he thinks he’s innocent of the federal charges against him.

In the court filing, Snyder’s attorneys wrote that he thought the criminal case against him “would not last long,” and that a temporary suspension of his law license made sense.

“The two-plus years of suspension have worked an intolerable hardship on [Snyder], and any further delay in his ability to return to representing clients would simply be unfair and inequitable,” Snyder’s attorneys wrote.

A member of the Maryland Bar for 50 years, Snyder “treasures” his law license and was one of the city’s most visible personal injury attorneys before being charged criminally.

Prosecutors in 2020 charged Snyder with extortion under the federal Travel Act, claiming he tried to shake down the University of Maryland Medical System in 2018 for $25 million as part of a consulting agreement that would prevent Snyder from suing the hospital for 10 years. A trial date has not been set, and the proceedings have been delayed in part by the pandemic and by multiple procedural appeals to the 4th Circuit.

Before proposing the consulting agreement, Snyder had two clients, identified only by their initials, who he represented against the hospital’s organ transplant program. The spouse of one of the clients died, likely because of complications from a transplant, and Snyder settled both cases, for millions, without going to court, according to legal filings.

Snyder does not deny approaching the hospital board and asking for the money, instead claiming it cannot be extortion because the idea of his consultancy was his client’s idea. In one instance, Snyder claimed his client, identified as “M.S.” would not settle with the university hospital unless it hired him on as a consultant.

Hospital officials disagreed, and the pair agreed to settle the case anyway with a meeting to discuss a consultancy scheduled for a week later. The hospital then canceled that meeting, according to the court record.

“This very situation has been considered by other authorities, which have concluded that, in fact, it might have been malpractice for [Snyder] to have failed to follow his client’s wishes to become a consultant,” his attorneys wrote in this week’s filing.

Prosecutors allege that Snyder pressured the hospital to hire him as a consultant, with Snyder threatening to mount a public pressure campaign to expose what he claimed was the university system’s pattern of transplanting bad, diseased organs into unwitting patients to maximize profits. Snyder threatened a front-page article in The Baltimore Sun, national news stories and an advertising campaign.

Snyder estimates he settled between 50 and 100 cases with the university hospital over a 20-year period.

The hospital never agreed to a deal, and its counsel notified former Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein in the summer of 2018 about Snyder’s demands. Eventually, authorities started investigating and secretly recorded some of Snyder’s meetings with hospital officials.

Attorneys for Snyder claim he went “out of his way to ensure that the potential consultancy was appropriate and ethical.” To that end, Snyder, in a meeting with hospital officials, offered to hire Baltimore ethics lawyer Andrew Graham and have him meet with the board to answer questions and determine whether Snyder’s proposal was ethical.

Originally, Snyder was not concerned about criminal charges, and instead was subject to an investigation by the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, which was set for a trial before his indictment. At no point during the attorney grievance process did Snyder anticipate criminal charges, his attorneys wrote.

“[Snyder] had been a successful practitioner [of law] for 50 years,” his attorneys wrote about his proposed consulting agreement and meetings with hospital officials. “He clearly had no reason to extort money or desire to place himself into criminal jeopardy, especially at his age [73 at the time] and station in life generally.”