Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Joseph F. Holman, Esq.
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Docket No.: BAR-02-02
Issued by: Single Justice, Maine Supreme Judicial Court
Date: April 22, 2002
Respondent: Joseph F. Holman, Esq.
Bar Number: 0001767
DECISION AND ORDER
Attorney Joseph F. Holman, who has been a member of the Maine Bar since 1951, has tendered his resignation from the Bar. Because he is the subject of an investigation under the Maine Bar Rules, the Court must determine whether to accept or reject his resignation. M. Bar R. 7.3(g)(2). The Board of Overseers of the Bar, in a split vote, has recommended that his resignation be rejected.
Holman's letter of resignation is accompanied with the required affidavit in which he admits the truth of the misconduct allegations. See M. Bar R. 7.3(g)(1)(C). At a hearing held on April 10, 2002, Holman addressed the Court and acknowledged his misconduct. He apologized for the misconduct, saying that he is deeply ashamed, and he represented that, if his resignation is accepted, he will never seek reinstatement. Holman is seventy-six years old. The Court has reviewed the medical records that he submitted which indicate that he is suffering from cancer and has undergone recent surgeries. In addition, he is being treated with antidepressant medication.
Holman's misconduct arose from his representation of an elderly friend. Holman drafted the friend's will and trust in which he was named a beneficiary and co-trustee, and Holman purchased property from the trust. So far as is known, no one suffered a loss as the result of his misconduct. The property was purchased at its appraised value, and the sale was approved by the other co-trustee and remaindermen.
This is not the first time that Holman has been the subject of an investigation for misconduct as an attorney. In 1976 he was suspended from the practice of law for one and one-half years as the result of misrepresentations he made to the Bankruptcy Court regarding legal fees.
The Board's position is that the serious nature of Holman's misconduct, in addition to his previous suspension, means that he should be subject to public disciplinary proceedings instead of being allowed to resign privately. The Board is concerned that the private resignation will have no deterrent effect on the rest of the Bar and will not adequately signal the public that such misconduct has serious repercussions.
There is no question that Holman's misconduct was extremely serious. Furthermore, the fact that he was previously suspended from practice, albeit twenty-five years ago, indicates that the public should be protected from his practice of law. However, his resignation and his representation that he will never seek reinstatement will suffice to protect the public because he will never again practice law in Maine.
As to the lack of deterrent effect on other attorneys by Holman's resignation as opposed to public disciplinary proceedings, the public nature of this order should suffice. Although Holman's affidavit is impounded pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.3(g)(3) this order is a matter of public record. Thus, the number of attorneys who will learn about Holman's resignation, made while he was under investigation for misconduct, is likely to be as large as the number of attorneys who would learn about a suspension or disbarment proceeding and will have as much deterrent effect as a suspension or disbarment. Attorneys are well aware that in order to accept a recommendation the Court must have the resigning attorney's admission of misconduct.
In light of the totality of factors in this case, the Court is of the opinion that the resignation should be accepted. Holman's age and health, his remorse, his representation that he will not seek reinstatement to the Bar, and the fact that no one suffered a loss resulting from his misconduct are all factors leading to this decision to accept his resignation.
The court hereby accepts the resignation of John F. Holman from the Maine Bar. Pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.3(g)(3) his affidavit will remain impounded. If Holman should renege on his promise that he will not seek reinstatement, the affidavit will be made public. This order is a matter of public record pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.3(g)(3).
For the Court
Hon. Susan Calkins, Associate Justice - Maine Supreme Judicial Court