Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Peter Whittington Drum, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF 19-389
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: October 22, 2020
Respondent: Peter Whittington Drum, Esq.
Bar Number: 009884
M. Bar R. 13(e)(7)(D)
On October 22, 2020, with due notice, Panel D of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e)(7)(D) concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Peter W. Drum, Esq. The 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 29, 2020.
At the stipulated hearing, the Board was represented by Assistant Bar Counsel Alan P. Kelley and Attorney Drum appeared with counsel, James M. Bowie, Esq. Prior to the hearing, the parties had submitted a stipulated proposed sanction Report for the Grievance Commission Panels review and consideration. The Complainant, R. G., was also provided with a copy of the parties proposed Stipulated Report in advance of the hearing.
Having reviewed and agreed to the proposed findings as presented by the parties, the Panel makes the following findings and disposition:
- Attorney Drum was at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to and authorized to engage in the practice of law and in all events and respects subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.
- Attorney Drum was admitted to the Maine bar in 2005 and he is currently in private practice in Damariscotta, Maine.
- In early October of 2018, R.G. retained Attorney Drum on behalf of an Owners Association to give the Association written legal opinions regarding their obligation to finish a road within the subdivision.
- Attorney Drum received $1,000 of an agreed upon $2,000 fee at the time he was retained. Three weeks later Attorney Drum was asked 15 additional questions.
- Between October of 2018 and April of 2019, R.G. made contact with Attorney Drum regarding the status of the requested opinions on several occasions, and on each occasion Attorney Drum assured him that the work was in progress, and that he would provide the opinions in the near future.
- In June of 2019, R.G. suggested that Attorney Drum return the $1,000 retainer, but agreed that Attorney Drum could keep the $1,000 if he answered all but one of the 15 questions posed.
- In September of 2019, when he still had not received the written opinions, R.G. filed his complaint with the Board of Overseers.
- After receiving R.G.s complaint, Attorney Drum refunded the $1,000 retainer, and through counsel, admitted that, "he was not as diligent as he should have been responding to R.G., and in supplying a final work product."
- After receiving Attorney Drums response, and having the retainer returned, R.G. agreed that his complaint should be dismissed with a warning to Attorney Drum.
- Attorney Drum now fully admits that he failed to exercise reasonable diligence and promptness in completing the work that he was retained to complete as required by MRPC Rule 1.3.
Attorney Drum has explained that during the time period in question that he had a turnover of staff in his office, and that he suffered a broken leg that winter, both of which affected his ability to provide services to his client as he had promised. He has also explained that while he did complete a substantial portion of the work required in order to provide the written opinions, that he ultimately failed to provide those opinions in a timely manner.
Nonetheless, Attorney Drum has fully acknowledged that he failed to comply with his obligation under MRPC Rule 1.3 to "act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client." While R.G. has agreed that there was no adverse impact to the Association resulting from Attorney Drums misconduct, Attorney Drum has fully acknowledged that his failure to act with reasonable promptness in providing his client with the requested opinions resulted in his violation of MRPC Rule 1.3.
Among the factors to be considered in imposing sanctions are: the duty violated, the lawyers mental state, the actual or potential injury caused by the lawyers misconduct and the existence of any aggravating or mitigating circumstances. See ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, 1991 (ABA Standards). See also M. Bar R. 21(c).
The first factor to be considered for sanctions under the ABA Standards is to determine what duty has been breached. The Maine Rules of professional conduct and the Maine Bar Rules require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. In this instance, the duty violated was to Attorney Drums own client. With regard to his mental state, Attorney Drums misconduct was not intentional, and he appears to have fully intended to provide the services that he promised to his client. While Attorney Drum failed to act with reasonable promptness in providing those services, there was no adverse effect upon his former client as a result of his failure. Therefore, there was little or no actual injury to any client, the profession, or the public resulting from Attorney Drums conduct.
Attorney Drum is a sole-practitioner who has practiced in Maine since 2005, and although he has been in active practice since that time, he has no prior disciplinary history during his fifteen years of practice.
In sum, the evidence of misconduct supports the reviewing Panels findings, and Attorney Drum agrees that he did in fact violate the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. However, the Panel agrees that Attorney Drums misconduct was minor; that there was little or no injury to a client, the public, the legal system, or the profession; and that there is little likelihood of repetition by Attorney Drum. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that an admonition is a proper sanction to impose upon Attorney Drum.
Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is the issuance of an admonition, which is now hereby issued and imposed upon Attorney Drum pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(B).
Date: October 22, 2020
Carolyn A. Silsby, Esq., Chair
Megan A. Sanders, Esq.
Tim I. Marks, Public Member