Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Richard E. Bridges, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 11-305
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: July 9, 2012
Respondent: Richard E. Bridges, Esq.
Bar Number: 002765
Disposition/Conduct: Lack of Diligence; Lack of Communication; Excessive Fee; Failure to Return Client Property; Failure to Respond to Bar Counsel; Misrepresentations; Conduct Prejudicial to Administration of Justice
DECISION AND ORDER OF GRIEVANCE PANEL
A disciplinary petition was brought against the respondent, Richard E. Bridges on March 14, 2012 and was duly served upon him on March 15, 2012. Pursuant to the summons, the petition was due to be answered by the respondent within 20 days. No answer was received and the case was set for hearing on June 26, 2012.
The hearing was held on June 26, 2012 at the Board of Bar Overseers hearing room in Augusta, Maine before Grievance Panel D, consisting of William Baghdoyan, Esq., Chair, James A. McKenna III, Esq., and Kathleen A. Schulz, lay member. The Board was represented by J. Scott Davis and the respondent represented himself. Because no answer had been made to the petition by the respondent, the facts alleged in the petition and the misconduct alleged were accepted as admitted, pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(1). The hearing thus concerned only the issue of what sanction, if any to impose.
Based upon the allegations in the petition that were not answered by the respondent, the panel finds the following facts:
- At all times relevant to the case, Richard E. Bridges was an attorney duly admitted to the practice of law in the State of Maine and was thus subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.
- The respondent represented the complainant, Kenneth Russell in respect to an insurance claim for a fire that had destroyed Mr. Russell's residence. Though the respondent did assist his client in obtaining a settlement for personal property destroyed in the fire, the respondent neglected his duty towards his client with respect to the additional claim regarding the destroyed real estate. Attorney Bridges failed to properly communicate with his client, he failed to respond to his client's questions and phone calls about the case, and he failed to return his client's file to him in a timely fashion when he was requested to do so. In fact, it is unclear to the panel whether the file was ever finally returned to the client as the respondent never turned over a copy of the file to bar counsel and did not present his file or any of its correspondence at the hearing.
- Though the respondent did respond to the initial inquiry from Bar Counsel, he failed to respond to an additional inquiry letter from Bar Counsel dated November 18, 2011. In particular, the respondent never provided Bar Counsel with a copy of Mr. Russell's file as was requested in that letter of November 18, 2011.
- The respondent was also not candid in his phone call with Bar Counsel's assistant on January 12, 2012, in that he stated he "thought" he had responded to the letter of November 18, 2011, when he knew in fact that he had not.
- Respondent was properly served with the Disciplinary Petition and he failed to file an answer to that petition at any time.
- Because of the above cited actions of the respondent, the Panel finds that the respondent did engage in misconduct as defined by Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3; 1.4(a)(b), l.5(a); l.15(b)(2)(i-iv); 8.1(b) and 8.4(a)(c)(d).
Having found the above-cited violations of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel must decide upon what sanction if any to impose. The purpose of those rules is not to punish the attorney, but is rather to insure protection of the public from the misconduct of members of the Bar. The panel is particularly concerned that Attorney Bridges did not respond either to his client or to Bar Counsel. Attorney Bridges also never filed an answer to the petition. These failures indicate a lack of attention to the requirements of his legal practice. Although his marital difficulties may explain these lapses, it does not excuse them. The panel believes that the issuance of a Public Reprimand is appropriate, and such a Public Reprimand is hereby issued.
We also strongly recommend that Attorney Bridges seek the counsel and assistance of the Maine Assistance Program to help him maintain his professional responsibilities while at the same time dealing with the stresses of his personal difficulties.
For the Grievance Commission
William Baghdoyan, Esq., Chair, Panel D
James A. McKenna III, Esq.
Kathleen A. Schultz