Monday, April 12, 2010
The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine has found that an attorney engaged in misconduct and directed the parties to set forth their positions on sanction in light of their conclusions. The attorney represented a client in a family matter in which the opposing party (the father) sought to expand his contacts with their child. The attorney and client offered "widely different accounts of which occured during their time together after [a] mediation session."
The court found that the attorney put his hand on the client's thigh during their breakfast together: "These actions made [the client] uncomfortable, but she thought that [the attorney] was kidding and she made light of the behavior." They went to a diner later that day and discussed the case over beers. They then went to the attorney's car, where he photographed her buttocks on his cell phone, told her she "had a nice ass" and deleted the photo on her request. He told her he was attacted to her and proposed that they go to his house for sex. She responded that the suggestion was inappropriate as he was her attorney. As a result, she was "confused and shaken."
When the client thereafter discharged the attorney, she made arrangements to pick up her file. The attorney required her to sign an acknowledgment of fees in order to get the file. The court found that this conduct improperly asserted a lien on the client's file in order to secure payment of his fees.
The court found that the evidence did not establish that the attorney had proposed a "sex-for-fees" arrangement, which was the most serious charge. The client, under oath, testified that she could not recall what he had said during the breakfast meeting.
It appears that the attorney was admitted in Maine notwithstanding a prior felony conviction, according to this recommendation of the Board of Bar Examiners. He had been convicted of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute, which he claimed was intended to provide financial relief to the family's failing pig farm. According to the board's report, he contended that "the only ones who benefitted [from his criminal conduct] were the pigs at the farm, the attorneys and the government." (Mike Frisch)