Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Alexander J. Karr
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Docket No.: GCF# 12-044
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: June 25, 2013
Respondent: Alexander J. Karr
Bar Number: 003245
Order: Dismissal with Warning
Disposition/Conduct: Failure to Respond to Bar Counsel; Failure to comply with 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 June 25, 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, Alexander J. Karr. This disciplinary proceeding had been commenced by the filing of a Petition pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e) by the Board of Overseers of the Bar on March 11, 2013. On March 28, 2013 Karr filed his answer to that Petition and admitted the misconduct alleged by the Board.
By agreement of the parties and approval by the Panel, Karr attended the hearing by a speaker telephone that was audible for everyone in attendance at the hearing. The Board was represented by Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis and Karr so appeared pro se. Prior to the disciplinary proceeding, the parties had filed and submitted to the Board Clerk a stipulated, proposed Report for the Panel’s review and consideration.
Having reviewed the agreed proposed findings as presented by the parties, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Alexander Karr 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 1985.
On October 18, 2011 Karr 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 required 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 Karr of the consequence of his failure to file that required affidavit. On or about December 20, 2011 Karr, or his agent, accepted and received that certified mailing from Bar Counsel concerning Karr’s failure to comply with Maine Bar Rule 7.3(i)(2). Karr failed to meet Bar Counsel’s response filing deadline date of January 2, 2012.
As a result, on January 25, 2012, Bar Counsel initiated and docketed a sua sponte grievance complaint against Karr based upon his failure to comply with that affidavit requirement. Karr then failed to respond to Bar Counsel’s two 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 Karr’s actions and found probable cause to believe that he had engaged in misconduct subject to sanction under the Maine Bar Rules.
In his answer of March 28, 2013 to the Board’s petition, Karr for the first time provided substantive information relating to the basis for his administrative suspension from practice in Maine and resulting failure to timely submit the required affidavit.
On December 31, 2010 Karr retired from his employment with the Department of Defense Contracting Agency in East Hartford, Connecticut. His intent was to fully retire everywhere from the practice of law, but admits that he failed to then so notify the Board and properly comply with the necessary requirements of the Maine Bar Rules to avoid an administrative suspension from practice in Maine. In late September 2011, Karr was diagnosed with prostate cancer for which he underwent surgery in late December 2011. The emotional and psychological trauma of that diagnosis and resulting serious surgery caused Karr to ignore his law license status in Maine, for which he now has accepted responsibility and apologized to the Panel.
With his answer to the Petition, Karr then also attached and filed his notification Affidavit dated March 29, 2013, a copy of which was provided to the Panel by Bar Counsel at the hearing. As a result, Karr has now complied with the requirements of Maine Bar Rule 7.3(i)(2)(A)(B). That affidavit confirms that Karr had no Maine clients to notify of his administrative suspension in 2011, but he agrees and understands the Maine Bar Rules still required him to file an affidavit with the Board so confirming that he had no Maine clients at the time he was suspended. The Panel notes that although Karr’s affidavit indicates his intention to “comply with registration requirements and payment of fees as required or requested (in Maine),” he has confirmed to Bar Counsel and the Panel that he has no intention to petition for reinstatement in Maine. He remains currently administratively suspended in Maine.
Karr 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 and has corrected them by belatedly filing his Affidavit of March 29, 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. Karr violated his duties to the legal system by failing to complete the annual registration requirements in 2011 and by then 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 Karr since being admitted to the Maine Bar in 1985. It is not the result of dishonest or selfish motives and occurred during a time of personal emotional difficulty relating to the diagnosis of his prostate cancer and resulting surgery. There was no injury to any Maine clients as a result of his misconduct, and Karr 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 Panel.
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 Karr, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Karr’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 Alexander J. Karr which is now hereby issued pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(B),(4).
Victoria Powers, Esq., Chair
John C. Hunt, Esq.
Marge M. Medd