Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Mary B. Devine, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 18-136
Issued by: Greivance Commission
Date: May 10, 2019
Respondent: Mary B. Devine, Esq.
Bar Number: 002845
Disposition/Conduct: Diligence, Communication, Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice
M. Bar R. 13(e)
On May 10, 2019, with due notice, a panel of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e). The Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) commenced this proceeding by the October 26, 2018 filing of a Formal Disciplinary Petition.
At the final hearing on that Petition, Attorney Devine appeared and was represented by her counsel, Rosie M. Williams, Esq. The Board was represented by Bar Counsel Aria Eee.
Prior to the scheduled hearing date, the parties notified the Clerk that they had negotiated a proposed settlement of the disciplinary matter. The proposed sanction report was submitted to the Clerk for the Commissions advanced review and consideration. Elaine Fryda was also provided with a copy of the parties proposed Stipulated Report prior to the stipulated hearing.
Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Grievance Commission Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Mary B. Devine, Esq. (Attorney Devine) of New Gloucester, Maine has been at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to and engaging in the practice of law in Maine. As such, Attorney Devine is subject to the Maine Bar Rules, and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct (M.R.P.C.). Attorney Devine was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1983 and she is currently a solo practitioner.
According to the parties stipulations, the Panel finds the following relevant facts:
Ms. Fryda hired Attorney Devine to handle the informal probate of the Estate of Lee Kingsbury, Frydas father. Mr. Kingsbury passed in September 2015. While administration of the Estate initially proceeded in a timely fashion, as the time drew near for closing the probate action, Devine began neglecting the matter. She also became non-responsive to Ms. Frydas attempts to obtain status updates. In her initial response to Ms. Frydas subsequent bar complaint, Attorney Devine reported that she had experienced health and other personal issues, both of which had negatively impacted her law practice.
The Probate Courts Docket Record confirms that Attorney Devine undertook virtually no actions in the estate matter for over thirty (30) months. Equally concerning is the fact that although Ms. Fryda executed several probate documents in December 2017, Attorney Devine did not file those documents until June 1, 2018, nearly six months later. That filing occurred two months after Ms. Frydas bar complaint.
As a result, the parties agree and the Panel so finds that Attorney Devine engaged in violations of Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 [diligence]; 1.4(a) [communication]; and 8.4(d) [conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice].
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 Devine agrees that she did in fact violate the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Grievance Commission must now issue an appropriate sanction. Pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(6)(8), prior to imposing a sanction, the Commission has considered the existence or absence of any prior sanction record.
The Commission relies on Maine Bar Rule 21(c) for guidance as to the proper factors to consider and apply in the issuance of an appropriate disciplinary sanction. Maine Bar Rule 21 states as follows:
(c) Factors to be Considered in Imposing Sanctions. In imposing a sanction after a finding of lawyer misconduct, the Single Justice, the Court, or the Grievance Commission panel shall consider the following factors, as enumerated in the ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions:
(1) whether the lawyer has violated a duty owed to a client, to the public, to the legal system, or to the profession;
(2) whether the lawyer acted intentionally, knowingly, or negligently;
(3) the amount of the actual or potential injury caused by the lawyer's misconduct; and
(4) the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.
In this matter, Attorney Devine agrees that her misconduct violated duties that she owed to her client and to the profession. There was injury to her client because of Attorney Devines delayed action. However, the Commission does not find that Attorney Devine acted with the intent to harm her clients interests. Instead, her neglect of the estate matter was due, in part, to her personal difficulties.
Regarding aggravating factors, Attorney Devine has substantial experience in the practice of law. She was previously reprimanded for similar misconduct during the same time period of inaction. In mitigation, Attorney Devine has admitted her misconduct, has expressed remorse for that misconduct and has been cooperative in the resolution of this matter.
Taking all of the above factors into consideration, and consistent with the analysis outlined in M. Bar R. 21(c), the Commission finds that a Public Reprimand is the appropriate sanction to address the misconduct by Attorney Devine. Therefore, the Commission accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Devines 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 Mary B. Devine, Esq. which is now hereby issued and imposed upon her pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(1) and 21(b)(5).
Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Devines separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a Public Reprimand to Mary B. Devine, Esq. which is now hereby issued and imposed upon her pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(B) and 21(b)(1).
Date: May 10, 2019
Thomas H. Kelley, Esq., Panel Chair
Andre J. Hungerford, Esq., Panel Member
Eric G. Doyon, Public Member