Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Lawrence A. Lunn, Esq.

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Docket No.: GCF# 17-128

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: January 10, 2018

Respondent: Lawrence A. Lunn, Esq.

Bar Number: 002358

Order: Reprimand

Disposition/Conduct: Diligence, Communication, Declining or Terminating Representation, Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice


STIPULATED REPORT OF FINDINGS AND ORDER OF PANEL A OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMISSION
M. Bar R. 13(e)


On January 10, 2018, 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, Lawrence A. Lunn, Esq. This disciplinary proceeding had been commenced by the filing of a Disciplinary Petition by the Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) on September 25, 2017.

At the hearing, Attorney Lunn appeared pro se and 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 being submitted for Panel A’s review and consideration. The complainant, Robert S. Boucher, who had been provided with a copy of the parties’ proposed Stipulated Report, was present and provided an opportunity to make comments to the Panel at that hearing.

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

FINDINGS

Respondent Lawrence A. Lunn, Esq. (Lunn) 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 subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney Lunn was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1980 and currently has a solo practice.

On March 16, 2017, Robert S. Boucher filed a grievance complaint against Attorney Lunn, who then filed his initial written response with Bar Counsel on May 18, 2017.

During the course of the Board’s investigation, Mr. Boucher and Attorney Lunn were each afforded the respective opportunity for rebuttal and supplemental responses, resulting in a fully developed investigation, pursuant to M. Bar R. 2(b)(2) & 13(b).

As a result, on or about August 7, 2017 a panel of the Grievance Commission reviewed Attorney Lunn’s actions in this matter, and found probable cause to believe that he had engaged in misconduct subject to sanction under the Maine Bar Rules. Therefore, the Grievance Commission panel directed Bar Counsel to prepare and present a formal charges disciplinary petition before a different panel of the Grievance Commission.

Mr. Boucher’s complaint involves Attorney Lunn’s neglect and failures to communicate with proper responses to the requests of his client, Mr. Boucher, regarding the status – including the retainer balance – of the two related legal matters Mr. Boucher understood he had hired Attorney Lunn to undertake against his neighbor.

In that regard, in August 2013 Mr. Boucher had met with Attorney Lunn to discuss two different, but related matters: 1). To pursue a Protection from Harassment action; and 2). To possibly file a civil damages action. Each matter concerned Christopher Sabine’s (Mr. Boucher’s neighbor) misuse of his skidder and intentional “water damage” (from snow plowing) to Mr. Boucher’s property.

Mr. Boucher’s grievance focused on Attorney Lunn’s lack of proper response(s) to his requests for status and progress updates about those matters.

Mr. Boucher’s requests to Attorney Lunn concerning the status of $5,000.00 retainer amount Mr. Boucher had paid to Attorney Lunn were likewise not properly answered by Attorney Lunn.

Mr. Boucher further claimed that for more than 3 years Attorney Lunn failed to take steps or efforts to have his Protection from Harassment action filed with the court.

Attorney Lunn’s initial written response to Bar Counsel’s investigative inquiry claimed that he did not feel Mr. Boucher had much of a case. However, he failed to include appropriate confirmation that he had actually ever communicated and properly informed Mr. Boucher that he would not pursue his matter(s), i.e. that Mr. Boucher would need to and should consult with other counsel.

Attorney Lunn agrees he failed to ever issue any declination letter to Mr. Boucher or otherwise properly confirm to him that he was not going to represent him regarding either matter, i.e., the Protection from Harassment or the “snow plowing.” Attorney Lunn now agrees that such conduct by him was in violation of Rules 1.3 (diligence) and 1.4(a)(b) (communication) of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.

Mr. Boucher had also filed a fee petition with the Fee Arbitration Commission (FAC). That matter was heard on June 19, 2017 before Panel 4 of the FAC, with its Award and Determination being issued immediately on the next day, June 20, 2017.

By that Award, Panel 4 found in favor of Mr. Boucher, highlighted as follows:

  1. Since Attorney Lunn never charged Mr. Boucher for the PFH issue, the Panel only focused its concerns and analysis on Mr. Boucher’s possible civil damages action(s) against Mr. Sabine;
  2. Attorney Lunn’s billing of Boucher for his many “uninvited (snowstorm) trips” to Mr. Boucher’s property was unreasonable;
  3. Attorney Lunn had also failed to ever clearly and fully inform Mr. Boucher about those snowstorm trips;
  4. Attorney Lunn failed to meet his burden of proof (which he had to meet due to the lack of a written fee agreement (see M. Bar R. 7(e)(12)) that the balance of $2,217.57 (from the $5,000.00 paid retainer) in fees and costs was reasonable and earned by him; and
  5. As a result, Attorney Lunn was then ordered by the FAC Award to refund that amount to Mr. Boucher, then being due within 30 days of his receipt of such notice (see M. Bar R. 7(g)).

As so ordered by that Award and required by the Maine Bar Rules, although Attorney Lunn had requested without success to meet Mr. Boucher elsewhere, he refunded that $2,217.57 balance to Mr. Boucher by delivering a check in that amount to Mr. Boucher at his residence on the last due date for making that payment, July 25, 2017. By doing so, Attorney Lunn’s conduct caused anxiety and angst to Mr. Boucher, whom Attorney Lunn was aware suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Based on the facts set forth above, Attorney Lunn admits that he engaged in violation of the applicable Maine Rules of Professional Conduct as detailed below. Specifically, those rules include M. R. of Prof. Conduct 1.3 (diligence); 1.4(a)(b) (communication); 1.16(d) (declining or terminating representation); and 8.4(a)(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

CONCLUSION AND SANCTION

The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(6) the Panel has been informed that although Attorney Lunn has no prior disciplinary record, he has been privately informally sanctioned with informal warnings being issued to him by review panels of the Grievance Commission on several separate grievances from 1992 to 2013. More than one of those prior grievance matters involved neglect or other communication deficiencies similar to that endured by Mr. Boucher. In fact, in that last complaint matter in 2013, Attorney Lunn was informed by the Grievance Commission panel’s review of that complaint that he needed “to improve his communications, which includes impending deadlines and notice to clients and courts of his withdrawal/terminated representation.”

The panel notes that Attorney Lunn has taken responsibility for his transgressions. At the disciplinary hearing, Attorney Lunn expressed his remorse to Mr. Boucher and to the Panel for his violations of the above-referenced portions of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.

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 Lunn agrees that he did in fact violate 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), which includes a review and analysis of his prior sanction history, an aggravating factor under M. Bar R. 21(c)(4), the Panel finds that a Reprimand must be issued against Attorney Lunn under M. Bar R. 21(b)(5)

Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Lunn’s separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a REPRIMAND to Lawrence A. Lunn, Esq. which is now hereby issued and imposed upon him pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(C) and 21(b)(5).

Date: January 10, 2018


John P. Gause, Esq., Acting Panel Chair
Carolyn A. Silsby, Esq., Panel Member
Milton R. Wright, Public Member