Thursday, July 18, 2019

Conviction Bars Malpractice Suit

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the dismissal of a legal malpractice claim brought by a criminal defendant against an attorney appointed to represent him after retained counsel withdrew.

After consulting with Haddow, Goguen stated in  open court that he did not dispute that he had committed a sex offense while in  failure to register status. The court sentenced Goguen to a term of months and  a period of supervised release with conditions.

And thereafter violated the terms

In 2013, after Goguen left prison on supervised release, the United  States Probation Office moved to revoke his release on the ground that he had  accessed pornography at the Penobscot Judicial Center law library in violation  of his conditions of release. Haddow was again appointed to represent Goguen.  In open court, Goguen waived his right to an evidentiary hearing and admitted that he had viewed pornography in violation of the conditions of his supervised  release. Goguen was sentenced, and his conviction was affirmed on appeal to  the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

He sued for malpractice but

Because undisturbed judgments have been entered, here based on  Goguen’s in-court admissions, finding that he committed a sex offense while in  failure to register status and that he accessed pornography in violation of his  conditions of release, Goguen is collaterally estopped from asserting that  inaccurate legal advice—rather than his own conduct—caused the injuries that  he alleges...

Goguen has not, however, alleged that any one of the pertinent  court orders—the judgment of conviction for failing to register, the sentence  imposed upon that conviction, or the order revoking his release—has been set  aside for any reason. Because Goguen has not, through his complaint, presented any facts necessary to overcome the Maine collateral estoppel bar,  we need not, on the record presented here, opine on whether the elements of  actual innocence or exoneration are necessary or sufficient to proceed with a  professional malpractice claim under Maine law when the alleged malpractice  involved the entry of a judgment of conviction or a subsequent revocation of  release. Further, to the extent that Goguen’s complaint may be seen to allege malpractice affecting the sentence imposed by the federal court after Goguen  pleaded guilty to failing to register, the complaint fails to state a claim for relief  because, as is revealed by Goguen’s allegations themselves, the sentence  imposed was at the bottom of the applicable range of the federal sentencing  guidelines given the offense level that pertained to Goguen for his crime of  failure to register.

(Mike Frisch)

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