Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Benjamin P. Campo, Jr., Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 11-401
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: July 19, 2013
Respondent: Benjamin P. Campo, Jr., Esq.
Bar Number: 009334
Disposition/Conduct: Candor to the tribunal; Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice
REPORT FROM GRIEVANCE COMMISSION PANEL E M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(2)(3)
On July 17, 2013, with due notice, Panel E of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing under Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2) concerning professional misconduct by the Respondent, Benjamin P. Campo, Jr. Esq. This disciplinary proceeding was commenced by the filing of a Petition by the Board of Overseers of the Bar on February 1, 2013, alleging misconduct in connection with the filing of two Consented Motions for Relief from Stay with the United States Bankruptcy Court in two similar but unrelated matters in violation of Rule 3.3(a) and 8.4(a)(c)(d) of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.
At the hearing, Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis represented the Board and the Respondent was represented by Peter J. DeTroy, Esq. The Parties presented a joint exhibit list with Exhibits 1-7 and all were admitted without objection. Exhibits 8 and 9 were later marked by the Board and admitted without objection. The panel heard testimony from the following: Benjamin P. Campo Jr. Esq., Andrew Sparks, Judge James B. Haines, Jr., and Anthony Manhart. Having heard the testimony and reviewed the evidence submitted, the Panel hereby makes the following findings:
Respondent is, and was at all times relevant to, an attorney duly admitted to and engaged in the practice of law in the State of Maine, and subject to the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.
On August 25, 2011, two voluntary petitions for relief were filed under chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. On August 26, 2011, Anthony Manhart was appointed by the Court to act as the interim chapter 7 trustee in connection with the administration of both debtors' estates. A creditors meeting for both cases was scheduled for October 3, 2011. On September 22, 2011 Attorney Campo filed a document entitled, "Consented Motion for Relief from Stay" in each of these cases on behalf of his client, GMAC. At the time that the Motion for Relief from Stay was filed, Attorney Campo in fact did not have the consent of the chapter 7 trustee. As required by D. Me. LBR 9013-1, Attorney Campo sought to obtain the consent of Trustee Manhart relating to the Motion for Relief from Stay. Attorney Campo was advised by the office of the trustee that Trustee Manhart would not give consent until he had a chance to speak to the debtor at the Section 341 meeting of creditors, scheduled to occur on October 3, 2011. Despite not having the consent of the trustee, Attorney Campo proceeded to file with the Court a pleading with the heading "Consented Motion for Relief from Stay" and a draft Order entitled, "Consented Order Granting Relief from Stay." While in the body of the Motion Attorney Campo recited that the Trustee "has not yet given his consent," in the Proposed Order it is stated that the Court executed the Order upon the "apparent consent" of the Movant and the chapter 7 trustee. Under the rules and procedures applicable in the Bankruptcy Court, a secured creditor situated as was GMAC had two alternative routes; if there was no consent to the order, the motion needed to be filed as if it were a contested proceeding, along with a filling fee and both a deadline for objection and a hearing date; if there was a consented-to order for relief from stay, the motion for relief could be filed on that basis and required neither the payment of a filing fee nor the insertion of a deadline for objection and a hearing date. Absent consent, there is no middle ground in which a motion for relief can be submitted as uncontested.
Additionally, consistent with the requirements of the Electronic Case Filling System, Attorney Campo submitted an electronic signature for Trustee Manhart, and in so doing, was certifying to the Court that the signatory had expressly agreed to the form and substance of the document and that the filing attorney had their actual authority to submit the document electronically.
After reviewing the Motions filed in the two matters, Trustee Manhart contacted the Clerk of the Court's Office to inform the Court that as of the date of the filings he had not consented to the Motion.
On September 23, 2011, the Court issued a Deficiency Order, noting that the Motion for Relief from Stay lacked the requisite consent to comply with the requirements of D. Me. LBR 9013-1(d).
On September 26, 2011, Attorney Campo withdrew the Motion for Relief from Stay. Shortly thereafter, the Office of the United States Trustee was contacted to perform an independent investigation into the matter which resulted in a Consent Order for Approval of a Compromise, including the Partial Disgorgement of Fees. On October 24, 2011 Judge Haines conducted a hearing where he heard from and specifically addressed his concerns about this matter with Attorney Campo and Attorney Sparks of Drummond and Drummond, LLP.
At the October 24, 2011 hearing Attorney Campo agreed that the filing of the papers with the Court containing intentionally inaccurate and/or misleading misrepresentations was a serious violation of court procedures, the rules governing the professional conduct of lawyers, and threatened the integrity of the federal bankruptcy system. Attorney Campo reiterated the seriousness of the misfiling and the misrepresentations in the hearing before the Panel.
On December 15, 2011, Judge Haines filed a grievance complaint against Attorney Campo because he was concerned that Attorney Campo had failed to candidly, truthfully or consistently acknowledge to the Court the seriousness of his misconduct.
At the hearing when asked if he understood that a court needs to be able to rely upon the representations of counsel, Attorney Campo answered in the affirmative, and when asked if he understood this at the time these events occurred, he said that he did.
Attorney Campo has acknowledged and taken full responsibility for his failure to properly file the Motions for Relief from Stay. He testified that his filings were intentionally misleading and could have been construed as dishonest. He deeply regrets the inattention and lack of care that he gave these pleadings before filing them with the Court. He points out, however, that the United States Trustee completed an independent investigation which concluded that his actions were not undertaken in bad faith or in a deliberate effort to mislead the Court.
Judge Haines took issue with the findings of the Trustee's investigation and testified that the integrity of the entire electronic filing system was compromised by Attorney Campo's misrepresentation that he had the consent of Trustee Manhart when he affixed his electronic signature to the Proposed Order. He further noted that but for the intervention of Trustee Manhart, the Court, relying on the unauthorized signature, could very well have gone ahead and signed the Order based upon the representations made by Attorney Campo. The Panel agrees that the actions of Attorney Campo violated Maine Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.3 which states that "a lawyer shall not knowingly . . . make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal . . . . " The panel also finds that Maine Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(d) was violated in that "it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to . . . engage m conduct that the prejudicial to the administration of justice."
Maine Bar Rule 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.
The conduct described herein is not minor nor was there little or no injury to the legal system. Accordingly, even though Attorney Campo has shown deep regret and promptly endeavored to correct his misleading filing, he did so only after his misrepresentation had become public. A Dismissal with a Warning is not an appropriate determination in this case.
The Panel hereby determines that the appropriate sanction is a reprimand pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(3)(C), and Respondent 1s accordingly so reprimanded.
Victoria Powers, Esq. Panel Chair
Robert S. Hark, Esq.
Marjorie M. Medd, Public Member