Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Richard L. Currier, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 16-368 & GCF# 16-371
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: September 5, 2017
Respondent: Richard L. Currier, Esq.
Bar Number: 002245
Disposition/Conduct: Threatening Prosecution, Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice
M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(d) & 21(b)(4)
On September 5, 2017, with due notice and pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e), Panel A of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing concerning misconduct by Respondent Richard L. Currier, Esq. The Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) commenced the disciplinary proceedings by filing a Stipulated Disciplinary Petition in GCF# 16-368 and 16-371 on June 28, 2017.
At the hearing, Attorney Currier appeared with his attorney, James M. Bowie, Esq., and the Board was represented by Assistant Bar Counsel Alan P. Kelley. Prior to that hearing date, the parties submitted a stipulated proposed sanction Report for the Grievance Commission Panel's review and consideration. These two related grievance matters were each initially brought to Bar Counsel's attention by Luke M. Rossignol, Esq. and Dwayne C. Gagnon.
Each complainant was provided with a copy of the proposed Stipulated Report Prior to the hearing, and provided with the opportunity to attend and speak to the Panel at the stipulated hearing.
Having reviewed the stipulated, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following findings and disposition:
- Respondent Richard L. Currier, Esq. 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 and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC). Attorney Currier was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1980 and practices in Presque Isle.
- Roland M. passed away in 2016, leaving a purported 2015 will naming Dwayne C. Gagnon as the sole beneficiary. Mr. Gagnon retained Attorney Rossignol’s law firm to represent him with regard to his claim under that will.
- The siblings of Roland M. did not recognize the legitimacy of the 2015 will, and retained Attorney Currier to represent them with regard to their claims to the estate under a previous will executed by Roland M. in 2013.
- The assets of the estate consisted primarily of the contents of two locked safes and some firearms which were taken to the Caribou Maine Police Department after Roland M.’s death with the understanding that they were to be held there until a court order was obtained regarding their disposition.
- On August 24, 2016, Attorneys Rossignol and Currier signed a joint letter to the Chief of the Caribou Police Department notifying him that the parties had agreed that they would meet together at the police department to open the safes and view the contents, and that in view of that agreement, a court order would not be necessary.
- After Roland M.’s funeral, Attorney Rossignol made multiple attempts to contact Attorney Currier to arrange for the opening of the safes as agreed upon and outlined in the August 24th letter; however, Attorney Currier did not respond to those attempts by Attorney Rossignol to reach him.
- On August 30, 2016, without providing prior notice to Attorney Rossignol, and despite his knowledge of the contested nature of the estate, Attorney Currier filed an application for informal probate of the 2013 will seeking appointment of one of his clients as the Personal Representative of the estate.
- In the application filed with the Probate Court by Attorney Currier, his client stated: “To the best of my knowledge, I believe the will was validly executed, and, after the exercise of reasonable diligence, I am unaware of any instrument revoking the will, and I believe the instrument which is the subject of this petition is the decedent’s last will.”
- After obtaining “Letters of Authority” for the Personal Representative on September 1, 2016, Attorney Currier notified the Chief of the Caribou Police Department that the “Letters of Authority” were a court order requiring him to release the safes and firearms to the Personal Representative.
- Attorney Currier did not notify Attorney Rossignol of the appointment of the Personal Representative, or of his correspondence with the Chief of the Caribou Police Department until after his client took possession of the disputed property.
- After his clients had taken custody of the personal property of Roland M.’s estate, Attorney Currier told Attorney Rossignol that if Mr. Gagnon filed the 2015 will in probate, or contested their probate of the 2013 will, he, or his clients, would contact the District Attorney’s Office to seek criminal prosecution of Mr. Gagnon in relation to the 2015 will.
- Mr. Gagnon did not file the 2015 will or contest the probate of the 2013 will by Attorney Currier’s clients. Attorney Currier did not report Mr. Gagnon to the authorities for criminal prosecution, although his clients did bring this matter to the attention of the appropriate authorities. However, no prosecution was forthcoming. Attorney Currier’s threat of prosecution was intended solely to prevent Mr. Gagnon from contesting the 2013 will.
- Attorney Currier now agrees and admits that his conduct in his handling of Roland M.’s estate violated the following Rules of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct: 3.1(b) (Threatening Prosecution), and in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct: 8.4(d) (Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice).
The panel notes that the purpose of bar disciplinary proceedings is not punishment, but rather protection of the public from attorneys who have demonstrated that they are unable to properly discharge their professional duties. While Attorney Currier does have a prior disciplinary record including the imposition of two prior reprimands in 1995 and 2012 respectively, in this case he has recognized that he made errors in judgment. As a result, he agrees that the imposition of a disciplinary sanction is in order as a result of his misconduct in this matter. In view of Attorney Currier’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions, and his expression of remorse for the above-described misconduct, the Panel is satisfied that it is unlikely he will engage in similar conduct in the future. Since the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Currier agrees that he did in fact violate the above-referenced portions of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel finds that imposition of a disciplinary sanction is required and that a public reprimand adequately serves the purposes of sanctions as set forth in Maine Bar Rule 21(c) (Sanctions).
Accordingly, for the admitted misconduct as outlined above, the Panel hereby accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Currier's separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and directs that Attorney Currier receive this public reprimand for the violations detailed herein regarding each of the cases represented by Docket Numbers GCF#16-368 and #16-371 pursuant to M. Bar R. 21(b)(5).
Dated: September 5, 2017
Cynthia M. Mehnert, Esq., Panel Chair
Jane S.E. Clayton, Esq., Panel Member
Milton R. Wright, Public Member