Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Anthony A. Trask, Esq.

Download Download Decision (PDF)

Docket No.: GCF# 17-005

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: October 31, 2017

Respondent: Anthony A. Trask, Esq.

Bar Number: 008114

Order: Admonition

Disposition/Conduct: Diligence, Communication with Client


AMENDED STIPULATED REPORT OF FINDINGS AND ORDER OF PANEL A OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMISSION

M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(B) & 21(b)(1)


On October 31, 2017, with due notice, Panel A of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e), concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Anthony A. Trask, 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 August 4, 2017.

At the hearing, Attorney Trask was present and represented by his counsel, Attorney James M. Bowie. The Board was represented by Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis.

Prior to the scheduled hearing date, the parties notified the Clerk that they had negotiated a proposed settlement of the disciplinary matter, with that proposed sanction report then being submitted for Grievance Commission Panel A’s review and consideration. The affected client, Dan Muscatell, and his spouse, Jenny Muscatell, attended that proceeding.

Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings and Report as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:

FINDINGS

Respondent Attorney Anthony A. Trask of Bangor, Maine 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 Trask was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1995 and is currently an associate attorney at the Rudman Winchell law firm in Bangor.

On August 8, 2016, Dan Muscatell filed a Fee Arbitration petition against Attorney Trask. The Award & Decision of Panel 4 of the Fee Arbitration Commission (FAC), dated December 13, 2016, became the basis for Bar Counsel’s filing of a sua sponte grievance complaint against Attorney Trask. Bar Counsel initiated this matter on that sua sponte basis under M. Bar R. 2(b)(2), due to findings by FAC Panel 4 that Attorney Trask’s fees were in part unreasonable and had ordered a $350.00 refund be made by Attorney Trask to Mr. Muscatell. That refund payment was timely made by Attorney Trask. Although there was no grievance complaint ever directly filed by Mr. Muscatell, as a result of that FAC Award, Bar Counsel inquired and requested a response from Attorney Trask regarding his representation of Mr. Muscatell.

In mid to late November 2015, Mr. Muscatell had filed his own pro se Motion to Modify regarding his child support obligations. He did so due to a health crisis resulting in a significant reduction of his previous regular employment income. On December 14, 2015, Mr. Muscatell then signed a fee agreement and engagement letter, hiring Attorney Charles Budd of Rudman Winchell as his counsel. Shortly thereafter, however, Attorney Budd was appointed to the Maine District Court, resulting in Attorney Trask becoming replacement counsel for Mr. Muscatell.

The first substantive meeting between Mr. Muscatell and Attorney Trask occurred on December 23, 2015. Mr. Muscatell’s significant potential reduction of the amount of his court-ordered weekly child support payments – from $189 to $34 per week – was then discussed by Attorney Trask. That reduced amount was computed by Attorney Trask’s applying the court mandated support guidelines to Mr. Muscatell’s reduced income. In his response letter to Bar Counsel, Attorney Trask admitted that he had then “…recommended that (Mr. Muscatell) commence paying child support at the lower level of $34.00 per week…” Although he had not yet made Mr. Muscatell aware of that specific reduced payment amount of $34.00 per week, on that same date (December 23, 2015), Attorney Trask submitted a letter to opposing counsel confirming that self-imposed child support payment plan and amount which was intended to be put in place by Mr. Muscatell. Attorney Trask maintained that position of such reduced child support being made by Mr. Muscatell, despite opposing counsel’s written request for more supporting documentation by his December 28, 2015 letter. In that regard, Attorney Trask failed to timely provide Mr. Muscatell with a copy of that December 28, 2015 letter wherein opposing counsel had requested Attorney Trask provide further confirmation of Mr. Muscatell’s medically induced lower income. Attorney Trask admits that he failed to timely provide that December 28th letter to Mr. Muscatell and discuss it with him until at least a month later.

Bar Counsel’s investigation included requesting and receiving information and comments from both Dan and Jenny Muscatell regarding the nature and substance of the legal advice, or lack thereof, provided by Attorney Trask on that lowered child support and related issues. In that regard, they each confirmed and Attorney Trask now agrees he failed to properly and completely advise Mr. Muscatell as to the actual “contempt risks,” including service of process by law enforcement, concerning that unilateral lower child support amount that was contrary to the terms of the then current court order for such support.

Accordingly, Attorney Trask now agrees and admits his conduct was in violation of MRPC 1.3 (diligence); and 1.4(a) (communication with client).

CONCLUSION AND SANCTION

The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically requires attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(6) the Panel has been notified that Attorney Trask has no prior sanction record on file with the Board. Furthermore, the Panel notes that Attorney Trask has taken responsibility for his transgressions. At the disciplinary hearing, he expressed his remorse to the Muscatells for his violations of those Maine Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of Dan Muscatell’s child support modification matter.

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 Trask agrees that he did in fact violate those above-referenced portions of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel has analyzed the proper sanction factors warranted under M. Bar R. 21. As a result, upon that analysis for imposing a proper sanction under M. Bar R. 21(c), the Panel finds that the necessary and required factors under M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(B) are present for an admonition to now be issued against Attorney Trask under M. Bar R. 21(b)(1)

Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Trask’s separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is an admonition to Attorney Trask. Accordingly, that admonition is now hereby issued and imposed upon Anthony A. Trask, Esq. pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(B) and 21(b)(1).

Date: October 31, 2017


Jonathan B. Huntington, Esq., Panel Chair
Christina M. Moylan, Esq., Panel Member
Milton R. Wright, Public Member