Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Tanya Stepasiuk

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Docket No.: GCF No. 11-014

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: December 23, 2011

Respondent: Tanya Stepasiuk

Bar Number: 004191

Order: Reprimand

Disposition/Conduct: Failure to file Required Affidavit after Admistrative Suspension


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


On December 19, 2011, with due notice, Panel C of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2)(E), concerning alleged misconduct by the Respondent, Tanya Stepasiuk. This disciplinary proceeding was commenced by the filing of a Disciplinary Petition by the Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) on August 11, 2011.

At the hearing, Stepasiuk was not present and the Board was represented by Assistant Bar Counsel Jacqueline L.L. Gomes. Prior to the disciplinary proceeding, the parties had submitted a proposed Report for the Grievance Commission Panel’s review and consideration.

Having reviewed the proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:

FINDINGS

Until the imposition of an administrative suspension, Respondent Tanya Stepasiuk (Stepasiuk) of Wakefield, Massachusetts was, at all times relevant hereto, an attorney duly admitted to and authorized to engage in the practice of law in the State of Maine and/or a suspended Maine Attorney, in all events and respects subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional conduct.

Stepasiuk was admitted to the Maine bar in 2007 and she is currently subject to an administrative non-disciplinary suspension.

On October 15, 2010 Stepasiuk was administratively suspended by the Board for her failure to report CLE credit and her failure to register and pay the fees required by 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. Stepasiuk did not file the affidavit certifying her compliance with Maine Bar Rule 7.3(i)(2) as required within 30 days after that suspension date. The Board’s certified letter of December 7, 2010 which notified Stepasiuk of the consequence of her failure to file that required affidavit was returned as unclaimed.

On January 18, 2011, Bar Counsel docketed a sua sponte grievance complaint against Stepasiuk for to her failure to comply with the affidavit requirements. Stepasiuk did not respond to the investigation of this grievance matter in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 8.1(b). On March 31, 2011 a panel of the Grievance Commission reviewed Stepasiuk’s actions and, based upon that review, found probable cause to believe that she had engaged in misconduct subject to sanction under the Maine Bar Rules.

On August 11, 2011, the Board filed a Disciplinary Petition. On August 18, 2011, Stepasiuk was served with a copy of the Disciplinary Petition. On that same day, she signed the Notice and Acknowledgement and filed an Answer to the Disciplinary Petition dated September 20, 2011. In her Answer, Stepasiuk explained that she no longer practiced law and had thought that she had previously satisfied the requirements to change her status from active to inactive. To date, Stepasiuk has not filed an affidavit certifying compliance with the requirements of M. Bar R. 7.3(i)(2)(A)(B).

CONCLUSION AND SANCTION

Stepasiuk violated Maine Bar Rule 7.3(i)(2)(A)(B) and Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1(b) and 8.4(a). As a consequence of her administrative suspension, she is not currently a licensed member of the Maine Bar, nor has she completed a change of status to inactive or withdrawn.

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 and the Maine Bar Rules require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Stepasiuk violated her duties to the legal system by failing to complete the annual registration requirements in 2010 and by failing to file the required notification affidavit once she was administratively suspended. Stepasiuk’s neglect caused minor 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. The information collected by the annual registration of lawyers facilitates the protection of the public and courts.

Stepasiuk’s continuing failure to file an affidavit complying with M. Bar R. 7.3(i)(2)(A)(B) is an aggravating circumstance. There are, however, several mitigating circumstances. The misconduct is not the result of dishonest or selfish motives. Stepasiuk was mistaken when she thought that she had previously completed the requirements for inactive status. As indicated in her Answer to the Disciplinary Petition, Stepasiuk no longer practices law and there was no injury to any clients as a result of her misconduct. Further, Stepasiuk took responsibility for her transgressions.

Since the evidence supports a finding and Stepasiuk agrees that she did, in fact, violate the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel finds that a public reprimand serves those purposes. Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Ms. Stepasiuk’s separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a Public Reprimand to Tanya Stepasiuk which is now hereby issued and imposed upon her pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(C), (4).


For the Grievance Commission

Peter C. Fessenden, Esq., Chair

Martica S. Douglas, Esq.

Christine Holden, Ph.D.