Board of Overseers of the Bar v. William B. Gillespie, Esq.

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Docket No.: GCF# 16-448

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: May 9, 2018

Respondent: William B. Gillespie, Esq.

Bar Number: 009881

Order: Reprimand

Disposition/Conduct: Diligence, Communication, Failure to return Client's Property, Declining or Terminating Representation, Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice


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


On May 9, 2018, with due notice, Panel D of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e), concerning misconduct by the Respondent, William B. Gillespie, 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 August 18, 2017.

At the hearing, Attorney Gillespie was represented by his counsel, Attorney James M. Bowie, 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 D’s review and consideration. The complainant, Joseph P. Michaud, had been provided with a copy of the parties’ proposed Stipulated Report and was present at that proceeding.

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

FINDINGS

Respondent William B. Gillespie, Esq. of Topsham, 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 Gillespie was admitted to the Maine Bar in 2005 and he is currently a solo practitioner.

On December 12, 2017, Joseph P. Michaud filed a grievance complaint against Attorney Gillespie, who filed his initial response on February 4, 2017.

During the course of the Board’s investigation, Michaud and Attorney Gillespie were afforded respective opportunities 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 June 13, 2017, a panel of the Grievance Commission reviewed Attorney Gillespie’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.

This complaint involves Attorney Gillespie’s significant neglect and repeated failures to communicate with any proper responses to the requests from his client, Complainant Michaud, regarding the status of the probate of the Estate of Louise Prescott, Michaud’s mother.

Michaud first met with and hired Attorney Gillespie on September 18, 2012 and completed payment of the fee balance on October 1, 2012. The total initial fee that Michaud paid Attorney Gillespie was $1,000.00.

In that regard, Michaud desired to have his sister, Shelia Carter (the initial and then current Personal Representative (PR) of their mother’s estate), removed as that PR. Accordingly, in late March 2013, Attorney Gillespie took action resulting in the Kennebec County Probate Court’s issuance of a “Temporary Restraining Order Without Notice” that effectively started the removal of Carter from that PR status and function. By Kennebec County Probate Judge James Mitchell’s Order of May 23, 2013, Michaud was then appointed as the new successor replacement PR.

Thereafter, however, Michaud became dissatisfied with the lack of any proper effort or action(s) put forth by Attorney Gillespie regarding the pursuit of Michaud’s legal probate interests in the Estate of Prescott. As a result, by his writing of November 18, 2016, Michaud terminated his legal relationship with Attorney Gillespie for the following stated reasons:

  1. After some “50 months” of service as Michaud’s attorney, “little documentation or explanation has been given and little has been done on behalf of the estates (sic) interest”;
  2. Attorney Gillespie seemed “…to be preoccupied, unavailable, or unable to represent (Michaud) or the estate in this probate matter”; and
  3. Michaud’s many requests for Attorney Gillespie to provide and return his client file were ignored by him.

By Bar Counsel’s letter of February 22, 2017, Attorney Gillespie was specifically requested to provide Michaud’s client file to Bar Counsel. Attorney Gillespie did so on March 10, 2017, resulting in the office of Bar Counsel hand-delivering copies of that entire file on that same date to Michaud.

When that occurred, Michaud was directed to review several documents therefrom and to confirm to Bar Counsel whether he had ever earlier seen or received all such documents on a timely basis from Attorney Gillespie.

As a result, Michaud then confirmed that he had never earlier been provided by Attorney Gillespie with several important documents.

In addition, Michaud claimed to Bar Counsel that several text messages he had with Attorney Gillespie from his iPhone were, for the most part, either ignored or at least never answered or replied to by Attorney Gillespie.

The Kennebec County Probate Court’s Docket Record for the Estate of Louise Prescott, Docket No. 2007-0319-1, confirms that the most significant and relevant events to Michaud’s grievance complaint occurring subsequent to Judge James Mitchell’s Order of March 25, 2013, are as follows:

  • August 29, 2013 – Personal Representative’s (Joseph Michaud) Objection to Prior Personal Representative’s Inventory and Accounting of Personal Property (filed by Attorney Gillespie);
  • August 6, 2015 – Probate Registrar’s letter to Attorney Gillespie (never answered by him);
  • August 30, 2016 – Clerk or Registrar’s letter to Attorney Gillespie re: final accounting and distribution not yet filed;
  • November 18, 2016 – same as immediately above;
  • January 3, 2017 – Attorney Gillespie files his Motion to Withdraw;
  • January 31, 2017 – Letter from Probate Clerk refusing to process that Motion to Withdraw; and
  • April 3, 2017 – Judge Elizabeth Mitchell grants the Motion to Withdraw.
  • Attorney Gillespie’s only substantive response letter dated February 4, 2017 then accepted very little responsibility for his actions, or lack thereof, in the handling of Michaud’s probate matter. Attorney Gillespie now agrees, however, that his lack of communication and his attention deficiencies in the handling of Michaud’s probate matter were in violation of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.

    Based on the facts set forth above, Attorney Gillespie 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) (communication); 1.15(f) (failure to return client’s property); 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 requires attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. The panel has been informed that Attorney Gillespie has no disciplinary sanction record on file with the Board. The panel further notes that Attorney Gillespie has taken responsibility for his transgressions, and at the disciplinary hearing he expressed his remorse for his serious violations 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 Gillespie 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), the Panel finds that a Reprimand is the appropriate sanction to be issued against Attorney Gillespie under M. Bar R. 21(b)(5).

    Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Gillespie’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 William B. Gillespie, Esq., which is now hereby issued and imposed upon him pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(C) and 21(b)(5).

    Date: May 9, 2018


    James A. McKenna III, Esq., Panel Chair
    Teresa M. Cloutier, Esq., Panel Member
    Emilie van Eeghen, Public Member