August 11, 2010
A Tough Practice Area
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has suspended an attorney for 30 days, with the possibility of a fully-stayed sanction. The attorney was retained to represent a client in a matter that included a dispute over visitation with the client's minor child.
The client went to California before a court case management conference. While the attorney filed a motion to allow the client to participate by telephone, the client did not do so. The attorney entered into an agreement without the client's authorization that allowed the opposing party alternate weekends.The attorney failed to advise and then lied to the client. When the opposing party picked up the child, the client panicked and sought other counsel (the attorney had an injured shoulder and was on meds). The attorney lied about the situation to the new counsel. As a result, proceedings were brought on the misunderstanding that the opposing party had violated the court order. The attorney made misrepresentations to the tribunal.
The court noted in mitigation that the attorney "has, for decades, practiced in an area replete with opportunities for missteps, misunderstandings, and disgruntled clients" without a blemish save for a 1983 reprimand for a conflict of interest. If the attorney completes six hours of ethics CLE prior to the end of the year, the suspension will be stayed in its entirety.
The matter was submitted to the court on stipulated facts. (Mike Frisch)
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