Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Patrick E. Hunt

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Docket No.: GCF# 10-145

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: December 30, 2011

Respondent: Patrick E. Hunt

Bar Number: 002707

Order: Dismissal with Warning

Disposition/Conduct: Conflict of Interest - Simultaneous Representation; Avoiding Misreliance


REPORT OF FINDINGS OF PANEL A OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMISSION


Pursuant to due notice, Panel A of the Grievance Commission conducted a disciplinary hearing on November 18, 2011 in accordance with Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2) and open to the public on a complaint concerning the Respondent, Patrick E. Hunt, Esq. At the disciplinary hearing the Board was represented by Assistant Bar Counsel Aria Eee, Esq. and Respondent was present and represented by the Theodore Kirchner, Esq.

At the hearing, the Panel heard testimony from the following witnesses:

Patrick E. Hunt, Esq. - Respondent

Juanita Tarr - office paralegal

Charlene Gould – office paralegal

Darcy Merry – office paralegal

Janelle Grant – office paralegal

Heather Blue – Petitioner

Robert Langner, Esq. – Family Court Magistrate

Carl McCue, Esq. – Friend of Petitioner

David Walker – Petitioner’s ex-spouse

The Board’s exhibits 1-27 and Respondent’s exhibits 1-56 were admitted without objection. Respondent’s Exhibits 57 and 58 were admitted for limited purpose only without objection.

Having heard the testimony and reviewed the evidence submitted, the Panel hereby makes the following findings in this matter:

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

This case is complicated by the presence of family-type relationships between Mr. Hunt and his nephew, David Walker, and Attorney Carl McCue and his close, family-like relationship with Ms. Blue.

Mr. Hunt testified he believed that Attorney McCue was representing Ms. Blue. He based this conclusion on the fact that he believed that Mr. McCue asked for copies of the agreement (via fax) and pleadings, requested an amendment to the agreement which resulted in Ms. Blue receiving substantially more real estate and requested an amendment which reduced her indebtedness.

Mr. Hunt’s letter of 6/27/07 (Respondent’s Exhibit #8) was addressed to Attorney McCue with a copy to David Walker. The letter clearly states that Mr. Hunt represented David Walker. It did not make clear that Mr. Hunt was representing only David Walker and not Ms. Blue – perhaps because Mr. Hunt believed that Mr. McCue was representing Ms. Blue. Nor was a copy of that letter sent to Ms. Blue – perhaps for the same reason. Had Mr. Hunt prepared a timely letter of non-representation to Ms. Blue to clarify this issue in June of 2007, the issue would not have arisen. We find this misconduct, if any, is minor under Rule 3.4(c)(1) and Rule 3.6(i).

Mr. Hunt’s testimony and that of his staff was that he does routinely use letters of non-representation in other matters, such as real estate. It is also significant that at the divorce hearing before Magistrate Robert Langer, Ms. Blue was acting pro se and confirmed to the Magistrate that she was acting pro se, although in her testimony she claimed not to understand what that meant, despite the Magistrate’s explanations.

Although Ms. Blue testified that she did not know that Mr. Hunt was representing only Mr. Walker, a letter addressed to her (and initialed by her) dated August 2, 2007 (Respondent’s Exhibit #12) clearly indicates that Mr. Hunt was representing only Mr. Walker and could not answer her questions, The evidence presented would lead a reasonable person to conclude that Mr. Hunt was only representing Mr. Walker on August 2, 2007.

We find that the conduct of Mr. Hunt caused little or no injury to Ms. Blue. It was not Mr. Hunt’s conduct that caused any post-judgment injury to Ms. Blue. Ms. Blue’s post-judgment proceedings involved matters of custody issues that arose after the divorce hearing.

Mr. Hunt and his staff testified that he no longer accepts divorce cases of any kind. We therefore conclude that there is little likelihood of repetition.

The Panel is mindful of the purpose of this proceeding such that it is not punishment but protection of the public and the courts.

DISPOSITION

Based upon the evidence and the record before it, Panel A unanimously determines that the appropriate disposition of this Petition is that it be dismissed with a warning to Mr. Hunt. The Panel suggests that Mr. Hunt attend continuing legal education courses pertaining to conflict of interest matters and that he employ his practice of sending timely letters of non-representation like those he uses in other matters should he meet with any potential divorce clients in the future.


For the Grievance Commission

M. Ray Bradford, Jr.

Sarah McPartland Good

Norman Ross