Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Steven A. Juskewitch, Esq.
Download Download Decision (PDF)
Docket No.: GCF #18-433
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: April 1, 2020
Respondent: Steven A. Juskewitch, Esq.
Bar Number: 000272
Order: Admonition Probation
Disposition/Conduct: Communication, Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice
M. Bar R. 13(e)
On March 27, 2020 with due notice, Panel D of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing by telephone pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e) and the Emergency Order and Notice issued by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on March 13, 2020, concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Steven A. Juskewitch, Esq. The Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) commenced this proceeding by the filing of a negotiated, stipulated Disciplinary Petition.
At the March 27 hearing, Attorney Juskewitch was represented by James M. Bowie, Esq., and the Board was represented by Bar Counsel, Aria Eee. The Clerk provided complainant, Richard F. Eckendorff, with notice of this action and he appeared and participated telephonically.
Prior to the scheduled hearing date, the parties notified the Commission that they had negotiated a proposed settlement of the disciplinary matter. The proposed sanction report was submitted to the Clerk for the Commissions advance review and consideration. Bar Counsel provided Mr. Eckendorff with a copy of the parties proposed Stipulated Report in advance of the stipulated hearing.
Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Grievance Commission makes the following disposition:
Respondent Steven A. Juskewitch, Esq. (Juskewitch) has been at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to and engaging in the practice of law in Maine. As such, Juskewitch is subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct (M.R.P.C.). Juskewitch was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1976 and is currently a solo practitioner in Ellsworth, Me.
According to the parties stipulations, the Commission finds the following relevant facts:
On December 8, 2018, Richard Eckendorff filed a complaint against Attorney Juskewitch, based upon Juskewitchs prior representation of Eckendorff. Within his complaint, Eckendorff alleged that Juskewitch threatened him with physical harm, causing Eckendorff to feel fearful and intimidated by his attorney. Eckendorff reported that the threats occurred over the span of four months during the representation. On at least two of the occasions when Juskewitch made the aggressive statements, there was another person present. Eckendorff did not discharge Juskewitch as his counsel. Mr. Juskewitch withdrew from representation after the court granted his motion to withdraw. Sometime thereafter, Eckendorff filed his grievance complaint, which followed his receipt of Juskewitchs final bill. Eckendorff also complained to the local police but Juskewitch was not charged with a crime.
Juskewitch filed a timely response to the complaint, denying any professional misconduct. Instead, Juskewitch explained that while he did make statements such as "I'm going to strangle you," he did so in frustration with Eckendorffs lack of focus, not as an intended threat toward his client. Juskewitch averred that his relationship with Eckendorff was a difficult one to manage and his statements were meant to focus the client on preparing for his anticipated testimony. With the passage of time, Juskewitch now agrees that his treatment of Eckendorff fell short of that which is ethically required of attorneys. He has expressed regret for acting in that manner toward Eckendorff.
Even though Juskewitch did not intend to convey a threat to his client, the Commission finds that his actions toward Eckendorff were violative of M.R.P.C. 1.4(a) [communication] and 8.4(d) [conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice].
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Juskewitch agrees that he violated his duties to comply with those Rules.
The Commission notes 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 to properly discharge their professional duties. Since the evidence supports a finding and Juskewitch agrees that he 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 lawyers misconduct; and
(4) the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.
In this matter, Juskewitch agrees that his misconduct violated duties that he owed to his client and to the profession. After considering Juskewitchs statements arising from the hearing, the Commission does not find that he acted with the intent to harm Eckendorff. Given the totality of circumstances, Eckendorff suffered nominal harm that the Commission finds did not rise to the level of serious misconduct. The Commission does find that Juskewitch displayed poor judgment in resorting to threatening language as a means to communicate with his client. The Commission expects that Juskewitch will learn from this lapse in judgment and refrain from engaging in similar misconduct with his future representation of clients.
Regarding aggravating factors, Juskewitch has received prior discipline/sanctions and he has substantial experience in the practice of law. In mitigation, Juskewitch has admitted his misconduct, has expressed remorse for that misconduct, and has been cooperative throughout the investigation and prosecution 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 an Admonition and Probation are appropriate sanctions to address the misconduct by Attorney Juskewitch. The parties shall mutually agree upon the Probation terms, but at a minimum, Probation shall continue for one year, and Mr. Juskewitch will consult with an agreed upon person or persons experienced in the proper management of client relations/communications and anger management. The parties have further agreed that the Probation terms shall be maintained within Bar Counsels file, and she shall notify the Commission Clerk upon Juskewitchs successful completion of the period of Probation. With these consented-to-conditions, the Commission accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Juskewitchs separately executed waiver of the right to file for a Petition for Review.
Pursuant to M. Bar R. 13, the Commission hereby imposes an Admonition and one year of Probation upon Steven A. Juskewitch, Esq.
Date: April 1, 2020
John J. Aromando, Esq., Panel Chair
Peter B. Bickerman, Esq., Panel Member
Malcolm T. Dow, Public Member