Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Eric B. Morse, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 12-019
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: January 9, 2013
Respondent: Eric B. Morse, Esq.
Bar Number: 007980
Order: Dismissal with Warning
Disposition/Conduct: Candor to the Tribunal; Misrepresentation; Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice
STIPULATED REPORT OF FINDINGS AND ORDER OF PANEL D OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMISSION
M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(2)(4)
On December 18, 2012, with due notice, Panel D of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2)(E), concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Eric B. Morse, Esq. The disciplinary proceeding was commenced by the Board of Overseers of the Bar’s (the Board) October 11, 2012 filing of a Stipulated Disciplinary Petition.
During the hearing, the Board was represented by Assistant Bar Counsel Aria Eee and Attorney Morse was represented by Roger J. Katz, Esq. The complainant, Jeremy P. Kamil, lives in Louisiana and while he was unable to personally attend the hearing, he did send a letter to the Panel regarding the parties’ proposed settlement document. That document was previously provided to him by the Board. Prior to the hearing, Assistant Bar Counsel Eee and Attorney Katz submitted a proposed, stipulated sanction Report for the Grievance Commission Panel’s review and consideration.
Having reviewed that proposed Report as earlier filed by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Eric B. Morse of Rockland, Maine, has been at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to and engaging in the practice of law in the State of Maine. As such, Attorney Morse is subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney Morse was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1994 and he is engaged in private practice in Rockland and registered as an active Maine attorney.
On or about January 9, 2012, Mr. Kamil filed the complaint which is at issue in this matter. In his complaint, Mr. Kamil alleged that Attorney Morse notarized a complaint for parental rights and responsibilities without his client, Kristin Cloutier, being present before him. Mr. Kamil also alleged that Attorney Morse improperly counseled Ms. Cloutier [his estranged partner] to file a Protection from Abuse complaint in an effort to gain an advantage in the couple’s custody dispute.
At the hearing, Attorney Morse acknowledged his error in notarizing Ms. Cloutier’s court pleading. Specifically, it was improper for Attorney Morse to notarize the pleading without Ms. Cloutier actually having signed the document in his presence. Attorney Morse admits that he did so under the mistaken belief that it was permissible, as long as he made it clear that the client had not so personally appeared. Attorney Morse now understands that executing a jurat in such a manner was improper and prejudicial to the parties’ underlying court proceedings.
Based upon the above-outlined findings and the parties’ agreement, the Panel finds that Attorney Morse’s actions constituted violations of Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3(a) [Candor to the Tribunal] and 8.4(c)(d) [misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice].
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their duties to clients and the courts. Due to Attorney Morse’s actions, Mr. Kamil suffered unnecessary distress and collateral litigation related to his family matter. Although Attorney Morse’s error was problematic, it did not create a lasting prejudice to the litigants or the court process. Instead, the Panel finds that the misconduct was minor in nature, resulted in nominal harm to the public and the profession and is unlikely to be repeated by Attorney Morse.
M. Bar. R. 2(a) provides 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. Among the factors to be considered in imposing sanctions are the duty violated, the lawyer’s mental state, the actual or potential injury caused by the lawyer’s misconduct, and the existence of any aggravating or mitigating circumstances. See M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(C); See also ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, 1991 (ABA Standards).
Attorney Morse has accepted responsibility for improperly executing the jurat in his client’s pleading. He acknowledges the upset he caused to Mr. Kamil and the violation of his duties as an officer of the court. During the stipulated hearing, Attorney Morse agreed that his conduct was unprofessional and unfair to Mr. Kamil and Attorney Morse apologized for his professional failures. Finally, the Panel notes that Attorney Morse has no prior history of sanction or discipline and that fact serves as a mitigation in this proceeding.
Since the evidence of misconduct supports a finding and Attorney Morse agrees he did in fact violate the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel finds that its issuance of a Dismissal with Warning is an appropriate sanction.
Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties including Attorney Morse’s separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review. The Panel concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is the issuance of a Dismissal with a Warning to Eric B. Morse, Esq., which is now hereby issued and imposed upon him pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(B),(4).
William E. Baghdoyan, Esq. - Chair
James A. McKenna III, Esq.
Kathleen A. Schulz