Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Louise A. Klaila

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Docket No.: GCF 10-129

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: May 24, 2011

Respondent: Loiuse A. Klaila

Bar Number: 007264

Order: Reprimand

Disposition/Conduct: Registration, Annual Fees, Continuing Legal Education, Code of Professional Responsibility


REPORT OF FINDINGS AND ORDER OF PANEL D OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMISSION


On May 24, 2011, with due notice, Panel D of the Grievance Commission conducted a disciplinary hearing concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Louise A. Klaila. This disciplinary proceeding was commenced on November 9, 2010 through the Board of Overseers of the Bar’s filing of a Disciplinary Petition. The May 24, 2011 hearing was open to the public pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2)(E).

Ms. Klaila failed to file an Answer to the Disciplinary Petition. Therefore, pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(1), the misconduct alleged in the Petition, as set forth below, was taken as admitted by Ms . Klaila.

At the hearing, the Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) was represented by Assistant Bar Counsel Jacqueline L.L. Gomes. Ms. Klaila was not represented by counsel and, despite being properly notified of the hearing, did not appear to be heard on the question of sanctions.

FINDINGS

Respondent Louise A. Klaila (Klaila) of New Orleans, Louisiana was, until the imposition of an administrative suspension, at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to the practice of law in the State of Maine. As such, Klaila, a 1990 admittee to the Maine Bar, has been subject to the Maine Bar Rules. She is currently a suspended Maine attorney (see below.)

On October 20, 2009 Klaila was administratively suspended by the Board due to her CLE deficiencies and her failure to register and pay the necessary fees as required by the Maine Bar Rules, all in violation of Maine Bar Rules 6(a)(1), 10(a) and 12 as well as Rule 3(a) of Maine’s Rules For Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection.

On March 9, 2010, Bar Counsel docketed a sua sponte grievance complaint against Klaila related to her failure to comply with the affidavit requirements of M. R. Prof. Conduct 8.4(a) and M. Bar R. 7.3(i)(2)(A)(B). On February 1, 2011, after several failed attempts at personal service, an Order for Alternate Service was issued. Klaila eventually accepted personal service on February 9, 2011.

As of the date of this hearing, Klaila remains administratively suspended and has never filed an answer to this grievance matter in violation of M. Bar R. 2(c) and M. R. Prof. Conduct 8.1(b). Further, she still has not filed any notification affidavit. Klaila’s conduct resulted in her violations of Maine Bar Rules 6(a)(1); 7.3(i)(2)(A)(B); 10(a); 12 and Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1(b) and 8.4(a).

CONCLUSION AND SANCTION

Due to Klaila’s above-outlined failures, the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct were violated by her. As a consequence of her administrative suspension, she is no longer a licensed member of the Maine Bar.

M. Bar. R. 2(a) provides that the purpose of bar disciplinary proceedings is not punishment, but rather the protection of the public from attorneys who, by their conduct, have demonstrated that they are unable to properly discharge their professional duties. Among the factors to be considered in imposing sanctions are: the duty violated, the lawyer’s mental state, the actual or potential injury caused by the lawyer’s misconduct and the existence of any aggravating or mitigating circumstances. See ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, 1991 (ABA Standards). See also M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(C).

The first factor to be considered for sanctions under the ABA Standards is to determine what duty has been breached. The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically requires attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Klaila violated her duties to the legal system by failing to complete the annual registration requirements in 2009 as well as failing to file the required notification affidavit once she was administratively suspended.

Klaila knowingly failed to complete the annual registration requirements in 2009. She was aware of the registration requirements having registered annually with the Board of Overseers of the Bar beginning in 1991, with one exception in Fiscal Year 2007. Having been suspended administratively on October 16, 2006 for failure to complete the annual registration requirements and been reinstated to the active practice of law on September 19, 2007, Klaila was aware of the need to file a notification affidavit and the procedure necessary to regain active status. Klaila ignored the registration requirements.

Klaila’s failure to complete the annual registration requirements caused injury to the legal system. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court promulgated the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct to govern the practice of law by Maine attorneys. According to Maine Bar Rule 2 the rules are meant to provide appropriate standards for attorneys regarding their relationship with “clients, the general public, other members of the legal profession, the courts and other agencies.” The information collected by the annual registration of lawyers facilitates the protection of the public and courts.

There are no mitigating circumstances. There are aggravating circumstances: Klaila failed to respond to the mailing containing her annual registration materials. She then failed to file an initial response to the Grievance Complaint. She failed to accept service of the Disciplinary Petition on multiple occasions, which then required Bar Counsel to file a motion requesting approval of an alternate method of service. After finally accepting personal service of the Disciplinary Petition, she failed to file an Answer causing her to be defaulted and deemed to have admitted to the above referenced misconduct.

The evidence supports a finding that Klaila did, in fact, knowingly violate a duty to the legal profession and that there were aggravating circumstances due to her failures to initially accept service of the Disciplinary Petition or subsequently file an Answer when she violated the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.

Therefore, the Panel concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a Public Reprimand to Louise A. Klaila which is now hereby issued and imposed upon her pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(C) and (4). Bar Counsel shall deliver that Reprimand to Ms. Klaila by U.S. Mail on this date.


For the Grievance Commission

Benjamin P. Townsend, Esq., Chair

William E. Baghdoyan, Esq.

Ms. Kathleen A. Schulz