Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Wenonah M. Wirick, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF#14-402
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: September 24, 2015
Respondent: Wenonah M. Wirick, Esq.
Bar Number: 009634
Disposition/Conduct: Inadvertent Disclosures, Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice
M. Bar R. 13(e)(7)(D)
On September 24, 2015, with due notice, Panel B of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e)(7)(D), concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Wenonah M. Wirick, Esq. This disciplinary proceeding had been commenced by the filing of a Stipulated Disciplinary Petition by the Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) on May 20, 2015.
At the September 24, 2015 hearing, Attorney Wirick was represented by Attorney Peter J. DeTroy and the Board was represented by Aria Eee, Deputy Bar Counsel. Attorney Nancy L. Morin, who is the Complainant in this proceeding, did not attend the stipulated hearing, although Deputy Bar Counsel did provide her with an advanced copy of this proposed order. Attorney Morin then had the opportunity to remark on the proposal prior to its consideration by this Grievance Commission Panel.
Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Wenonah M. Wirick, Esq. of Bath, ME has been at all times relevant hereto, an attorney duly admitted to and engaging in the practice of law in the State of Maine and subject to the Maine Bar Rules. Attorney Wirick was admitted to the Maine Bar in 2004 and she is currently a partner at Conley & Wirick, P.A.
On or about August 14, 2014, Attorney Nancy Morin filed a complaint with the Board related to a concluded divorce matter involving both attorneys. Attorney Morin represented “Mr. G” in a divorce action and Attorney Wirick represented his then wife, “Mrs. G.”
Following the grievance complaint filing by Attorney Morin, Attorney DeTroy filed a response on Attorney Wirick’s behalf. That response provided background information about Wirick’s representation of Mrs. G. in the family law and other related matters.
During that representation, Attorney Wirick was advised by her client of confidential attorney/client information the client had seen which was contained within emails between Attorney Morin and Mr. G. While Attorney Wirick did not personally obtain the information (her client did) she attempted to make use of it at a subsequent hearing before the District Court judge. Attorney Morin objected to that use, the attorneys met in chambers with the judge and she rejected Attorney Wirick’s attempt to utilize the privileged information. While the manner in which Attorney Wirick received the information was unusual, she was aware that information was part of a communication between another member of the bar and that lawyer’s client. While Attorney Wirick believed that she was free to make use of the privileged information, she should have first requested the court’s permission to do so. Of note, the Maine Law Court addressed a similar dispute in its decision, Fiber Materials v. Subilia, 2009 ME 71.
In that regard, Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 4.4(a)(b) [Respect For Rights Of Third Persons; Inadvertent Disclosures] and 8.4(d) [Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice] required Attorney Wirick to disregard the confidential, privileged information between Mr. G and his attorney. Those Rules further required Attorney Wirick not to make use of the information, unless she requested and was granted permission by the court to do so.
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically requires attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Attorney Wirick’s behavior in violating MRPC 4.4(b) and 8.4(d) constituted professional misconduct. Due to Attorney Wirick’s above-outlined failure, Mr. G’s confidential and privileged communications with this attorney were improperly utilized in his divorce proceeding. The Panel notes that Attorney Wirick has taken responsibility for her transgression. At the disciplinary hearing, Attorney Wirick expressed her remorse for her violations of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. It is expected that when an attorney becomes aware of or receives privileged information related to another lawyer’s client, she should immediately notify opposing counsel and if necessary, seek guidance and permission from the tribunal, consistent with MRPC 4.4(b).
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. Since the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Wirick 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 Attorney Wirick’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 Wenonah M. Wirick, Esq. which is now hereby issued and imposed upon her pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(C).
Date: September 24, 2015
Thomas H. Kelley, Esq., Panel Chair
Andre James Hungerford, Esq., Panel Member
Kenneth L. Roberts, Public Member