Board of Overseers of the Bar v. David G. Coolidge, Esq.

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Docket No.: GCF# 12-040

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: February 19, 2013

Respondent: David G. Coolidge, Esq.

Bar Number: 009519

Order: Dismissal with Warning

Disposition/Conduct: Failure to Respond to Bar Counsel and Failure to Comply with Procedural Requirements of the Maine Bar Rules


STIPULATED REPORT OF FINDINGS AND ORDER OF PANEL E OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMISSION
M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(2)(3)(4)

On February 19, 2013, with due notice, Panel E 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, David G. Coolidge, Esq. This disciplinary proceeding had been commenced by the filing of a Stipulated Disciplinary Petition by the Board of Overseers of the Bar on December 21, 2012.

Coolidge attended the hearing with his attorney, Louise K. Thomas, Esq. The Board was represented by Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis. Prior to the disciplinary proceeding, the parties had filed and submitted a stipulated, proposed Report for the Grievance Commission Panel’s review and consideration.

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

FINDINGS

David Coolidge was, until the imposition of an administrative suspension by the Board on October 18, 2011, at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to the practice of law in the State of Maine and subject to the Maine Bar Rules. He was admitted to the Maine Bar in 2003.

On October 18, 2011 Coolidge was administratively suspended by the Board due to his failure to file his annual registration statement, pay the annual fee and complete the proper credit hours of continuing legal education as required by Maine Bar Rules 6(a)(1), 10(a) and 12(a)(1), respectively. He also did not thereafter file the affidavit certifying his compliance with Maine Bar Rule 7.3(i)(2) as is required to occur within 30 days after that suspension date.

By a certified letter of December 15, 2011, Bar Counsel notified Coolidge of the consequence of his failure to file that required affidavit. On or about December 18, 2011 Coolidge accepted and received that certified mailing from Bar Counsel concerning Coolidge’s failure to comply with Maine Bar Rule 7.3(i)(2). Coolidge failed to meet Bar Counsel’s response filing deadline of January 2, 2012.

As a result, on January 25, 2012, Bar Counsel initiated and docketed a sua sponte grievance complaint against Coolidge for his failure to comply with that affidavit requirement. Coolidge failed to respond to Bar Counsel’s requests for information in the investigation of this grievance matter, in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 8.1(b).

On August 28, 2012 a panel of the Grievance Commission reviewed Coolidge’s actions and found probable cause to believe that he had engaged in misconduct subject to sanction under the Maine Bar Rules.

On December 3, 2012 Coolidge filed a Petition for Reinstatement with the Board. In his very complete and thorough reinstatement filing, Coolidge confirmed that emotional depression and other stressors related to the finalization of his divorce in 2011 had caused his failure to properly file the required notification affidavit concerning his suspension from practice in 2011. Coolidge then paid all past due amounts to the Board, including reinstatement fees. He also then correctly filed his “Suspension Notice Affidavit” and therein affirmed that at the time of his administrative suspension in 2011 he had no current clients to so notify that he was suspended from practice. Pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.3(j)(5), on December 19, 2012 the Board reviewed Coolidge’s Petition for Reinstatement and then unanimously voted to recommend that the Court approve Coolidge’s reinstatement to practice law in Maine. By its Order that became mandated on January 4, 2013, the Court reinstated Coolidge to the bar of the State of Maine effective immediately.

CONCLUSION AND SANCTION

Attorney Coolidge agrees that he violated Maine Bar Rule 7.3(i)(2)(A)(B) and Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1(b) and 8.4(a). He regrets those errors, has corrected them and has been reinstated to practice law in Maine effective January 4, 2013.

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 require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Attorney Coolidge violated his duties to the legal system by failing to complete the annual registration requirements in 2011 and by failing to file the required notification affidavit once he was administratively suspended. Such misconduct 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.

There are no aggravating circumstances. There are, however, several mitigating circumstances. This is the only instance of misconduct by Attorney Coolidge since being admitted to the Maine bar in 2003. It is not the result of dishonest or selfish motives and occurred during a time of personal emotional difficulty and depression that he has taken proper steps to address. There was no injury to any Maine clients as a result of his misconduct. Attorney Coolidge has taken responsibility for his transgressions. At the disciplinary hearing, he expressed remorse for his violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, and apologized to Bar Counsel and the Grievance Commission.

Because the misconduct was minor, there was no harm to any clients, little harm to the profession and the misconduct appears very unlikely to be repeated by Attorney Coolidge, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Coolidge’s separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review. As a result, the Panel concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a public Dismissal With a Warning to Attorney David G. Coolidge which is now hereby issued pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(B),(4).


For the Panel:

Victoria Powers, Esq. - Chair

John C. Hunt, Esq.

Marge M. Medd