Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dismissal With Warning In Failure To Report Partner's Thefts

After overturning a finding of no misconduct against five partners charged with failure to report the thefts of colleague, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ordered that the matter be dismissed with a warning.

The charges involved partners at the Verrill Dana law firm.

From the court's opinion finding the misconduct:

We recognize that these six attorneys, comprising Verrill Dana's executive committee, were caught completely "off guard" by [the partner's] conduct. We also recognize that they dealt with [him] with compassion, and there is no suggestion of bad faith in their failure to refer his conduct to Bar Counsel or to individuals in the firm who were more capable of assessing the need for action, such as the firm's own counsel. However, we cannot ignore that, when faced with the significant malfeasance of a self-destructing partner, none of these attorneys even recognized that the Maine Code of Professional Responsibility required them to contemplate reporting that partner's conduct and subsequent breakdown. Notwithstanding the single justice's factual findings, when a firm's practices and policies do not require the firm's leadership to at least consider whether it has an ethical obligation to report a colleague in the circumstances presented by this case, we are compelled to find, as a matter of law, that the firm failed to have in effect "measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm conform to the Code of Professional Responsibility."

(Mike Frisch)

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