Bar Counsel Notes: Confidentiality of Bar Complaint Matters

Lawyer had a grievance complaint against him that was unilaterally dismissed by Bar Counsel under M. Bar R. 7.1(c), i.e. upon review and docketing Bar Counsel concluded the claim did not allege any misconduct subject to sanction under the Maine Bar Rules. Upon Bar Counsel's request, Lawyer had submitted a written response to assist Bar Counsel's investigation and understanding of the background facts of the complainant's allegations. The same complainant has now filed a human rights action against Lawyer. Under the confidentiality requirements of the Maine Bar Rules concerning grievance matters (Rule 7.3(k)), is it appropriate for Lawyer to use his written response as well as Bar Counsel's dismissal notice concerning that grievance complaint in defense of that related human rights action?

The requirement of confidentiality imposed by Bar Rule 7.3(k) applies only to the Board of Overseers of the Bar, its commissions and Bar Counsel. Those confidentiality restrictions do not apply to a complainant or a respondent attorney in such matters. Accordingly, Lawyer may inform the Human Rights Commission about the bar complaint, his response and the basis for Bar Counsel's dismissal action.

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.