Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Patrick E. Hunt, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 11-306
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: March 4, 2013
Respondent: Patrick E. Hunt, Esq.
Bar Number: 002707
Order: Dismissal with Warning
Disposition/Conduct: Meritorious Claims and Contentions; Conduct prejudicial to the Administration of Justice
STIPULATED REPORT OF FINDINGS AND ORDER OF PANEL A OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMISSION
M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(B)(4)
On March 4, 2013, with due notice Panel A of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Patrick E. Hunt, Esq. The hearing was convened pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2)(E) and had been commenced by the Board of Overseers of the Bar’s September 12, 2012 filing of a Disciplinary Petition.
At the March 4, 2013 hearing the Board was represented by Assistant Bar Counsel Aria Eee. Attorney Hunt was represented by Attorney Theodore H. Kirchner. Complainant Carol J. Farrar also attended the stipulated hearing and had been provided with a copy of the parties’ settlement proposal in advance of that hearing. Prior to the disciplinary proceeding, the parties submitted a stipulated proposed Report of Findings and Order 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:
Respondent Patrick E. Hunt (Hunt) has been at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to and engaging in the practice of law subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. Hunt was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1983 and maintains a law office as a solo practitioner in Island Falls, Maine.
In September 2011 Carol Farrar (Farrar) filed a grievance complaint against Hunt related to his conduct during small claims litigation between Hunt’s client and Farrar. In the complaint, Farrar alleged that Hunt acted improperly and made misrepresentations about her to the Wiscasset District Court. Of note, Hunt did not enter an appearance in that small claims litigation until after his client had defaulted the initial judgment. Hence, neither he nor his client was present for the court proceedings as there was no dispute that the client owed the amount claimed.
Despite Hunt’s initial belief that his behavior was compliant with the professional conduct rules, he has since acknowledged certain failings. In that regard, Hunt agrees it was improper for him to presume the timing of Farrar’s receipt of his client’s proposed settlement check, even though his client mailed her check three days prior to the hearing date of May 17, 2011. On that errant presumption, Hunt subsequently argued to the District Court that Farrar made misrepresentations within her own court filings. In doing so, Hunt engaged in violations of M. R. Prof. Conduct 3.1(a) and 8.4(d).
The Panel finds, however, that Hunt’s misconduct was minor and caused nominal injury to the public and the profession. Based upon his remarks to the Hearing Panel, it is expected that Hunt will not repeat such behavior in future litigation matters. Accordingly, the Panel agrees the required elements of the “warning rule” M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(b) are present in this matter.
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Due to Attorney Hunt’s above-outlined failures, Ms. Farrar was wrongly characterized as not candid before the District Court. The resulting dispute was ultimately resolved but Farrar was understandably upset at the error by a member of the Maine bar. Both before and at the disciplinary hearing, Hunt apologized to Farrar and expressed remorse for his violations of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Panel is aware that Hunt has an earlier history of attorney discipline, which has included a brief suspension followed by a monitoring of his practice. Notably, that prior misconduct largely concerned Hunt’s work on behalf of clients, whereas the instant matter related to Hunt’s treatment of an adverse party during contested litigation before a tribunal.
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 discharge properly their professional duties. Since the evidence supports a finding and Hunt agrees and admits that he did in fact violate the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel finds that a dismissal with a warning serves those purposes.
Therefore, the Panel accepts the parties’ agreement and proposed Report. That proposal includes Hunt’s separately executed waiver of the right to file an Objection to that Report. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a Dismissal with a Warning to Attorney Patrick E. Hunt, which is now hereby issued and imposed upon him pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(B),(4).
M. Ray Bradford, Esq., Chair
Sarah McPartland-Good, Esq.
Norman A. Ross (Layperson)