Board of Overseers of the Bar v. William S. Maddox, Esq.

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Docket No.: GCF# 17-109

Issued by: Grievance Commission

Date: May 9, 2018

Respondent: William S. Maddox, Esq.

Bar Number: 007177

Order: Admonition

Disposition/Conduct: Diligence, Communication


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 S. Maddox, 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 November 28, 2017.

At the hearing, the Board was represented by Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis, and Attorney Maddox appeared and was represented by his legal counsel, Attorney George T. Dilworth.

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 to the Clerk for this Panel’s review and consideration. The complainant, Donald E. Payson III, had been provided with a copy of the parties’ proposed Stipulated Report prior to the hearing date. He was present at that proceeding and provided an opportunity to make comments to the Panel.

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

FINDINGS

Respondent William S. Maddox, Esq. (Maddox) of Rockland, 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 Maddox was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1990 and he is currently a solo practitioner.

On February 28, 2017, Mr. Payson filed a complaint against Attorney Maddox. On or about March 27, 2017 Attorney Maddox filed a response with the Board.

Both parties were afforded and utilized opportunities for rebuttal and supplemental responses, resulting in a fully developed investigation pursuant to M. Bar R. 2(b)(2) and 13(b).

As a result, on or about August 7, 2017 a panel of the Grievance Commission reviewed Attorney Maddox’s actions in this matter, and based upon that review, 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.

Complainant Donald Payson was the great nephew (also referenced at times as her “nephew-in-law”) of Annette Brooks, who died on July 9, 2015. Her will had designated Attorney Maddox as the Personal Representative of her Estate.

On August 3, 2015, an Application for Informal Probate of Will and Appointment of Personal Representative was filed with the Knox County Probate Court. On August 25, 2015, the Notice to Personal Representative was then provided to Attorney Maddox confirming his appointment as the Personal Representative of the Brooks’ Estate. Letters of Authority were also then issued to Attorney Maddox, requiring him to properly (and timely) administer the Brooks’ Estate.

In his grievance complaint of February 28, 2017, Mr. Payson had alleged that Attorney Maddox’s neglect of the Brooks’ Estate “has been ongoing for a year and a half,” with little to no work or performance being timely done by Attorney Maddox at that time.

In that regard, Mr. Payson claimed that necessary utility bill payments (e.g., Central Maine Power and Maine Water) on Brooks’ home had not been timely attended to or paid by Attorney Maddox.
Mr. Payson then hired Attorney Pasquale Perrino to assist him by sending several inquiry letters to Attorney Maddox. Attorney Perrino entered his appearance with the Knox County Probate Court on April 6, 2016. His letters were not timely answered by Attorney Maddox.

Bar Counsel’s investigation confirmed the following further facts concerning Mr. Payson’s misconduct allegations against Attorney Maddox:

  1. A specific bequest under the will was not timely paid by Attorney Maddox; and
  2. Attorney Maddox had also paid a certain late fee assessed for his tardy or non-actions, e.g., failure to pay property taxes on time, but made those payments from funds of the Brooks’ estate.

Attorney Maddox did not produce an inventory concerning that estate until so requested by Attorney Perrino. Shortly before Mr. Payson had filed his grievance complaint against Attorney Maddox, i.e. on February 15, 2017, Attorney Naomi Cohen entered her appearance on behalf of the Brooks’ Estate with the Knox County Probate Court.

Attorney Cohen’s entry of appearance is the last docket entry in the Brooks’ Estate matter, which at that date had been pending informal probate for more than one year and one-half (19 months) after Annette Brooks’ death. As a result, Mr. Payson remained upset and frustrated due to Attorney Maddox’s dilatory actions of the processing of this informal probate estate.

CONCLUSION AND SANCTION

The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically requires attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. In this matter, Attorney Maddox admits and agrees that his above-outlined failure to timely and properly serve his role as the Personal Representative of the Annette Brooks Estate was conduct in violation of the following portions of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct: 1.3[diligence]; and 1.4(a) [communication]. The Panel notes that Attorney Maddox has now taken responsibility for his transgressions. At the disciplinary hearing, he expressed remorse for his violations of the above-referenced portions of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, and he also directly apologized to Mr. Payson.

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 Maddox 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. In that regard, under the required procedures of M. Bar R. 13(e)(6)(8), the Panel considered the existence or absence of any prior sanction record. Accordingly, upon that analysis for imposing a proper sanction concerning the many factors under M. Bar R. 21(c), including its finding of the presence of all the required prerequisites under M. Bar R. 21(b)(1), the Panel finds that an Admonition is the appropriate sanction to be issued against Attorney Maddox in this matter under M. Bar R. 21(b)(1).

Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Maddox’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 William S. Maddox, Esq. which is now hereby issued and imposed upon him pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(B) and 21(b)(1).

Date: May 9, 2018


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