Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Allan W. Hanson

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Docket No.: GCF 10-196 and 10-425

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: August 29, 2011

Respondent: Allan W. Hanson

Bar Number: 006814

Order: Reprimand

Disposition/Conduct: Conduct Unworthy of an Attorney, Neglect of a Client's Legal Matter, Diligence, Communication


STIPULATED REPORT OF FINDINGS AND ORDER OF PANEL A OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMISSION


On July 28, 2011, with due notice, Panel A of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2)(E), concerning misconduct by Respondent Allan W. Hanson, Esq. This disciplinary proceeding had been commenced by the filing of an Amended Disciplinary Petition by the Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) on June 7, 2011. Hanson filed his Answer to that Amended Petition on June 29, 2011.

At the July 28, 2011 hearing, Attorney Hanson appeared pro se and the Board was represented by Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis. The two complainants had each been earlier provided with a copy of the parties’ proposed Report of Findings and Order to review in advance of the hearing. Complainant Brenda Wilcox attended the hearing and and presented sworn narrative comments to the Panel concerning the parties’ proposed sanction concerning her matter. Complainant Richard Doucette was not in attendance at the hearing, but Bar Counsel orally described his critical and supportive comments in reaction to the proposed Report.

The Panel also received sworn comments from Attorney Hanson, including his responses to questions from the Panel and Bar Counsel.

In that regard, prior to the hearing, the parties had submitted a stipulated, proposed sanction Report for the Grievance Commission Panel’s review and consideration. Upon its review of that document in conjunction with those comments and testimony received at that hearing, the Panel then confidentially deliberated as to whether to then accept and adopt that proposed Report or proceed otherwise in light of the law office practice management issues described by Ms. Wilcox and acknowledged by Attorney Hanson. As a result, the Panel continued its disposition of these two involved complaint matters and directed the parties to obtain an attorney Monitor and involve the Maine Assistance Program (MAP) to address the caseload and time management issues currently affecting Attorney Hanson’s law practice. The Panel’s proceeding was then continued until August 25, 2011 to then consider adoption of the parties’ revised proposed disposition consistent with the Panel’s directive. As a result, having reviewed the revised agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel consistent with the Panel’s directive at that initial proceeding on July 28, 2011, the Panel now makes the following disposition:

FINDINGS

Respondent Allan W. Hanson, Esq. of Caribou, Maine has been at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to and engaging in the practice of law in the State of Maine and subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney Hanson was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1989 and he is currently registered as an active Maine attorney with a solo practice in Caribou.

On April 30, 2010, Richard Doucette filed a complaint against Attorney Hanson claiming that he had mishandled Doucette’s post judgment divorce matter in 2009. Part of Doucette’s upset involved Hanson’s mishandling of what action to take concerning a contempt judgment issued by the District Court against Doucette. Doucette claimed, and Hanson now agrees, that Hanson did not thoroughly and adequately respond to Doucette’s written directive to appeal that contempt judgment. Hanson also failed to properly handle Doucette’s needs regarding issues of alimony, medical bills and a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Doucette ultimately became so upset with Hanson’s misconduct that he elected to handle his remaining divorce matters by himself directly with opposing counsel, without legal assistance from Hanson. Hanson now agrees that his conduct was in violation of then applicable M. Bar R. 3.1(a) {conduct unworthy of an attorney}; 3.6(a)(2){handling a legal matter without preparation} and 3.6(a)(3){neglect of a client’s legal matter}.

On December 27, 2010, Brenda L. Wilcox filed a complaint alleging that Attorney Hanson neglected her breach of contract matter regarding her purchase of her modular home. That neglect was exemplified by the fact that although Hanson commenced representation of Wilcox in November 2008, he did not prepare her court complaint until June 2010 or actually file it until October 2010. By that time, his legal representation had been terminated by Wilcox due to his inaction and lack of response to her phone calls. In his responses to the Board, Hanson explained that Ms. Wilcox’s case had become more complicated than he initially anticipated, and that the filing of her lawsuit was impacted by his demanding court schedule. Hanson now acknowledges and agrees that his lack of communication and that delayed filing constituted his violations of then applicable M. Bar R. 3.6(a)(3) [standards of care and judgment/neglect of a client’s legal matter] as well as currently pertinent M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.3 [diligence] and 1.4 [communication]. At the hearing, Hanson expressed his remorse for the delay in filing Wilcox’s lawsuit, the resulting negative impact to her underlying legal action, and for acting in a manner which made her feel ignored and inconsequential.

CONCLUSION AND SANCTION

The Code of Professional Responsibility and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Due to Attorney Hanson’s above-outlined failures, Mr. Doucette’s post divorce matter and Ms. Wilcox’s breach of contract case languished. The Panel notes that Attorney Hanson has taken responsibility for his transgressions. At the disciplinary hearing, Attorney Hanson apologized to Doucette and Wilcox and accepted responsibility for his violations of the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney Hanson’s prior sanction record includes two minor non-disciplinary informal warnings in 1998 and 2001, respectively, as well as a reprimand by consent in 2004. All three of those earlier complaints involved misconduct by Attorney Hanson similar to these matters, i.e. neglect of clients’ matters.

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. See M. Bar. R. 2(a). Since the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Hanson agrees that he did in fact violate the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel finds that a public reprimand in each instance serves those purposes.

Therefore, after receiving testimony from Ms. Wilcox and Attorney Hanson as well as Bar Counsel’s comments at that proceeding on July 28, 2011 and upon its review and acceptance of the parties’ signed Confidential Monitoring Agreement, the Panel now accepts the revised proposed agreement of the parties, including Attorney Hanson’s separately executed waiver of the right to file any Petition for Review of either grievance matter. Thus, with the involvement of MAP and Monitor Michael E. Carpenter, Esq. now in place consistent with the terms contained in that referenced Confidential Monitoring Agreement the Panel now does conclude that the appropriate disposition of these cases is a Public Reprimand (in each case) of Allan W. Hanson, Esq. which are now each hereby issued and imposed upon him pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(C), (4).


For the Grievance Commission

James A. McKenna III, Esq., Acting Chair

M. Ray Bradford Jr., Esq.

Norman Ross