Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Leonard I. Sharon
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Docket No.: GCF 07-295
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: December 23, 2008
Respondent: Leonard I. Sharon, Esq.
Bar Number: 003291
Disposition/Conduct: Standards of Care and Judgment; Responsibilities Regarding Non-Lawyer Assistants
Report of Findings Panel E of the Grievance Commission M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(2)M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(4)
On December 23, 2008, with due notice, Panel E of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7. 1 (e)(2)(E), concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Leonard I. Sharon, 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 July 17, 2008.
At the hearing, Attorney Sharon was represented by James F. Martemucci, Esq. and the Board was represented by Bar Counsel, J. Scott Davis. The complainant, the Honorable Andrew Morton had been provided with a copy of this Report (in its proposal form) but was not present for the stipulated hearing. Prior to the disciplinary proceeding, the parties had submitted a stipulated, proposed sanction Report for the Grievance Commission Panel's review and consideration.
Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Leonard I. Sharon (Sharon) of Auburn, County of Androscoggin, State of 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 Sharon was admitted to the Maine bar in 1986 and he is a member in good standing.
On September 14, 2007, Justice Horton filed a complaint against Attorney Sharon. The complaint alleged that Sharon may have violated the Code of Professional Responsibility through his office's post-verdict, juror contact in an Androscoggin County Superior Court criminal matter. Earlier in the case, the Superior Court had issued specific orders which imposed detailed limitations on the use, retention and dissemination of confidential juror information. After the trial and in response to the law firm's inquiry, the Superior Court advised Sharon's office to file a request and affidavit in order to obtain access to juror names and contact information. According to the grievance complaint, neither the firm nor any of its agents submitted such a request.
By way of background, following the Superior Court trial, Sharon's jury consultant contacted at least two of the jurors involved in the murder case. The consultant informed the jurors that she had the trial Justice's permission to make such contact. By June 2007 a juror had alerted the Superior Court who subsequently complained to the Board of Overseers. Throughout these events, it appears that the consultant believed she had Sharon's authorization to undertake the post-trial communication with the jurors. This is apparent despite the Superior Court's previous direction to Sharon's office about the proper procedures required before such contact.
On September 17, 2007, the Superior Court issued an Order notifying the parties that the court was considering sua sponte, an initiation of contempt proceedings for sanctions against Attorney Sharon and or his jury consultant. As the court later noted, "Those matters center[ed] on two concerns: the unauthorized retention of juror names by or under the direction of [Attorney] Sharon, former defense counsel, and a misleading letter to jurors from the defendant's jury consultant working under the direction of former defense counsel." Ultimately, the Superior Court elected not to pursue a contempt proceeding. Instead, the court imposed a $2000 civil sanction against Sharon who, by then, had accepted responsibility for the actions outlined within the court's complaint. The resolution of that matter was memorialized in the Superior Court's January 18, 2008 Order.
On behalf of Attorney Sharon, Attorney James Martemucci submitted an initial response to the grievance complaint filed by the court. In that response, counsel provided background information about Sharon's representation of Mr. Roberts, the defendant in the murder case. Counsel also provided information related to Sharon's supervision of the juror consultant who initiated the post-trial juror contact. Within that response, Sharon denied any intent to violate the Superior Court's Orders.
Prior to the Board's filing of the Disciplinary Petition, Assistant Bar Counsel and counsel for Respondent agreed that Attorney Sharon engaged in misconduct, having violated specific portions of the Code of Professional Responsibility for which he should receive a reprimand.
In that regard, there clearly was a miscommunication between Sharon and his consultant concerning the Superior Court's requirements following the conclusion of the murder trial. At the least, the miscommunication resulted in Attorney Sharon's unintentional violation of the Bar Rules and the Superior Court's specific orders. Attorney Sharon has accepted responsibility for the apparent miscommunication and for his failure to ensure the consultant's compliance with the orders and the Bar Rules. To that end, Attorney Sharon acknowledges his specific violations of Maine Bar Rules 3.6(a) [Standards of Care and Judgment) and 3.13(c) [Responsibilities Regarding Non-lawyer Assistants]. As a result, Attorney Sharon also engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. See M. Bar R. 3.2(1)(4).
Conclusion and Sanction
The Code of Professional Responsibility specifically requires attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Due to Attorney Sharon's above-outlined failures, at least one of the upset jurors expressed her/his concern to the trial justice that the Superior Court had freely disclosed that juror's confidential information, a fact which proved somewhat frightening to the juror.
The panel notes that Attorney Sharon has taken responsibility for his firm's actions and the distress it caused the jurors involved in the murder case. During this hearing, Attorney Sharon expressed his remorse for his unintentional violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
M. Bar. R. 2(a) provides that 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, or likely to be unable, to discharge properly their professional duties. Since the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Sharon agrees that he did in fact violate the Code of Professional Responsibility, the Panel finds that a public reprimand serves those purposes.
Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Sharon's waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a reprimand to Leonard I. Sharon Esq. which is now hereby issued pursuant to M. Bar R. 7. 1 (e)(3)(C), (4).
For the Parties
J. Scott Davis, Bar Counsel
James F. Martemucci, Esq.
For the Grievance Commission
Victoria Powers, Esq., Chair
John C. Hunt, Esq.
Joseph R. Reisert, Ph.D.