Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Kevin M. Joyce, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF#14-310
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: June 2, 2015
Respondent: Kevin M. Joyce, Esq.
Bar Number: 008119
Disposition/Conduct: Diligence, Termination of Representation, Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice
M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(2)(E); 7.1(e)(3)(C)
On June 2, 2015 with due notice and pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2)(E), Panel D of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing concerning misconduct by Respondent Kevin M. Joyce, Esq. The Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) commenced this disciplinary proceeding by filing a Stipulated Disciplinary Petition on March 16, 2015.
At the hearing, Attorney Joyce appeared pro se and the Board was represented by Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis. Complainant John A. Crosby, Jr. was also in attendance at the hearing. Prior to that hearing date, the parties submitted a stipulated proposed sanction Report for the Grievance Commission Panel's review and consideration. Bar Counsel Davis had also earlier provided Mr. Crosby with a copy of the parties' proposed report.
Having reviewed the stipulated, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Kevin M. Joyce has been at all time 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. Attorney Joyce was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1995 and had practiced in a small law firm in Farmington until voluntarily leaving the practice of law in 2014.
On or about July 1, 2014 John Crosby, Jr. filed his grievance complaint against Attorney Joyce. That complaint concerned the improper manner in which Mr. Crosby claimed Attorney Joyce had handled his divorce in 2013 and thereafter in 2014.
In May 2013 Mr. Crosby hired Attorney Joyce to represent him in his family matter which resulted in the Farmington District Court's Divorce Judgment dated November 5,2013.
That Divorce Judgment specifically required the Plaintiff, Mr. Crosby, to properly draft and submit the necessary Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO) to effectuate the terms of the court's ordered distribution of Mr. Crosby's Thrift Savings Plan account from his Federal employment.
By letter dated November 21, 2013 Attorney Joyce informed Mr. Crosby that after the 21-day appeal period had expired regarding the issuance of that Divorce Judgment, i.e. by November 26, 2013, he would "attempt to complete the QDROs regarding the two separate retirement accounts."
In that regard, Mr. Crosby had questioned and inquired of Attorney Joyce as to his experience and ability to prepare and effectuate those Federal QDROs, and had even provided Attorney Joyce with numerous booklets, fact sheets and various contact numbers for some guidance and assistance to do so.
Although Attorney Joyce was an experienced domestic relations attorney, he failed to properly inform Mr. Crosby that he had never before handled a Federal QDRO.
Attorney Joyce then also failed to timely finalize the processing of Mr. Crosby's Federal QDRO, submitting his proposed QDRO document to the appropriate authorities on June 4, 2014, seven months after the date of the Crosbys' Divorce Judgment.
In addition, while that QDRO finalization remained pending, by a letter dated June 10, 2014 and with no earlier notice, Attorney Joyce then abruptly informed Mr. Crosby that he was "leaving the practice of law this week."
By that letter, Attorney Joyce also improperly advised and suggested that Mr. Crosby should contact and consult with a specific law partner at his office to help "shepherd" and "sort this (QDRO) out over the next couple weeks." That suggestion and direction was improper because Attorney Joyce knew that the specific law partner he mentioned had already publically announced he was also leaving their law firm to become associated and create a new law firm with the same attorney that was representing Mr. Crosby's spouse in their divorce matter.
Mr. Crosby was upset and distressed by being so abandoned by Attorney Joyce in the unfinished finalization of the Crosby QDRO matter. As a result, at the time Mr. Crosby filed his grievance complaint, Mr. Crosby's QDRO matter remained incomplete and not finalized as ordered by the Divorce Judgment of November 5, 2013.
Attorney Joyce agrees that by his June 10, 2014 letter to Mr. Crosby, he gave inadequate and untimely notice to Mr. Crosby of his departure from the practice of law effective within a few days of that notice. Attorney Joyce also then failed to provide the proper guidance and assistance for Mr. Crosby to obtain replacement counsel to handle the QDRO matter consistent with the terms of the Divorce Judgment. He agrees that it was also improper for him to suggest that Mr. Crosby then seek any legal advice about finalization of the QDRO matter from an attorney that had recently become a law partner of Ms. Crosby's divorce attorney.
Attorney Joyce also now agrees that by such improper and untimely notice to Mr. Crosby he acted in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.3(diligence); 1.16(d)(termination of representation); and 8.4(d)(conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities as officers of the court. Accordingly, based upon Attorney Joyce's improper actions and lack of appropriate professional judgment, the Panel finds that he violated M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.3; 1.16(d); and 8.4(d)(conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). The Panel notes that Attorney Joyce has taken responsibility for his behavior. He has acknowledged the wrongfulness of his actions and expressed remorse to Mr. Crosby for his violations of those particular portions of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. Bar Counsel has confirmed to the Panel that Attorney Joyce has no prior disciplinary record on file with the Board, although he did receive an informal confidential non-disciplinary dismissal with a warning in 2010 for a communication failure with a minor client.
The Panel further notes that the purpose of bar disciplinary proceedings is not punishment, but rather the protection of the public from attorneys who have demonstrated that they are unable to properly discharge their professional duties. See M. Bar. R. 2(a). Since the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Joyce agrees that he did in fact violate the above-referenced portions of 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 Attorney Joyce'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. Pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e) (3) (C), (4), the Panel hereby issues that Reprimand to Kevin M. Joyce, Esq.
Date: June 2, 2015
James A. McKenna III, Esq., Panel Chair
Mary A. Denison, Esq., Panel Member
Emilie van Eeghen, Public Member