Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Margaret P. Shalhoob, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF#14-194 & 14-302
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: February 19, 2016
Respondent: Margaret P. Shalhoob, Esq.
Bar Number: 003676
Order: Reprimand Probation
Disposition/Conduct: Personal Conflict, Conduct Disruptive of a Tribunal, Respect for Rights of Third Persons, Prejudicial Conduct
M. Bar R. 13 (e)(7)(D)
On January 27, 2016, with due notice and pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13 (e)(7)(D), Panel A of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing concerning misconduct by Respondent Margaret P. Shalhoob, Esq. This disciplinary proceeding was commenced on September 15, 2015 by the Board’s filing of a Disciplinary Petition.
At the January 27, 2016 hearing, Attorney Shalhoob was represented by Robert Meggison, Esq. and the Board was represented by Aria Eee, Deputy Bar Counsel. Attorney Armanda Day, who is a Complainant in this proceeding, attended the hearing. Complainant Jane Clayton, Esq. did not attend.
Having reviewed the stipulated facts and exhibits presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Margaret P. Shalhoob, Esq., of Bangor, Maine has been at all times relevant hereto an attorney duly admitted to and engaging in the practice of law in Maine. As such she is subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct (M.R. Prof. Conduct). Attorney Shalhoob was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1987 and is a solo practitioner with a varied civil law practice.
These complaint matters arose out of Attorney Shalhoob’s involvement in a divorce proceeding between the clients of Attorneys Clayton and Day. Prior to and after the filing of the 2012 divorce action, Attorney Shalhoob provided estate planning services to the client, “MP,” then represented by Attorney Day. Attorney Shalhoob provided such services until June 11, 2014. While serving as his counsel, Attorney Shalhoob developed a social relationship with MP, which ultimately hindered her professional judgment, in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.7(a)(2). Attorney Shalhoob reports that she continued to generally advise MP in matters which could involve her personal interests but she did recommend MP to have other counsel involved if the issues concerned Shalhoob or her judgment.
Subsequent to the District Court’s issuance of MP’s December 2013 Divorce Judgment, Attorneys Clayton and Day filed their respective complaints against Attorney Shalhoob. Those grievance complaints described Attorney Shalhoob’s behavior during the divorce proceeding between MP and his estranged wife. As was detailed in the complaint filings, Attorney Shalhoob interfered and disrupted Attorney Day’s representation of MP. On one occasion, Attorney Shalhoob interrupted testimony to hand deliver documents not requested by Attorney Day. Attorney Shalhoob reports that on another occasion she received the permission of the judge to hand deliver financial analysis graphs to MP and/or his counsel, Attorney Day. She also issued last-minute subpoenas to five trial witnesses, utilizing a private investigator who MP hired to assist with his case. Attorney Shalhoob caused the subpoenas to issue without Attorney Day’s knowledge or consent. During the interview of those proposed witnesses, neither Attorney Day nor Attorney Clayton concluded that they were necessary or relevant to the divorce hearing. Those subpoenas were quashed by the Court on a separate basis. The Panel finds that Attorney Shalhoob’s interference during the divorce proceedings was prejudicial to the interests of justice in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 3.5(d), 4.4(a), and 8.4(d).
Moreover, throughout Attorney Day’s trial preparation, she received advice she did not request from Attorney Shalhoob. That advice included Shalhoob’s opinions regarding proposed lay and expert witnesses, trial strategy and legal research. On occasion, Attorney Shalhoob criticized Attorney Day’s work on the divorce matter, including her handling of the use of experts. Some of her communications to Attorney Day were also unprofessional, derogatory and unbecoming. In retrospect, Attorney Shalhoob agrees that her conduct exacted some increase to the time and expense of MP’s divorce proceeding. Attorney Shalhoob also acknowledges that her social relationship likely interfered with her professional judgement, in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.7(a)(2).
In her appearance before the Grievance Commission at this hearing, Attorney Shalhoob acknowledged her violations of the Professional Conduct Rules and apologized for her behavior.
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities as officers of the court. Due to Attorney Shalhoob’s actions, Attorneys Day and Clayton (and their clients) were subjected to her burdensome lack of professional judgment. Accordingly, the Panel finds that Attorney Shalhoob violated M.R. Prof. Conduct 1.7(a) [personal conflict]; 3.5(d) [conduct disruptive of a tribunal]; 4.4(a) [respect for rights of third persons] and 8.4(d) [prejudicial conduct]. The Panel notes that Attorney Shalhoob has taken responsibility for her behavior. She has acknowledged the wrongfulness of her actions and expressed remorse for her violations of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Panel further notes that the purpose of bar disciplinary proceedings is not punishment, but rather the protection of the public from attorneys who have demonstrated that they are unable to properly discharge their professional duties. However, the Panel recognizes that Attorney Shalhoob has been subject to prior disciplinary actions in the past, including one action of a similar nature in 2006, for which a dismissal with a warning was issued. Because of her disciplinary history and because the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Shalhoob agrees that she did in fact violate the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel finds that the misconduct is grounds for a public reprimand and a period of probation pursuant to M. Bar R. 21(b)(4) and (5).
Therefore, the Panel concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a Public Reprimand and Probation. Pursuant to M. Bar R. 13 (e)(10)(C) and (D), the Panel hereby issues that Reprimand to Margaret P. Shalhoob, Esq. and mandates supervised probation pursuant to M. Bar R. 21(b)(4) as set forth in the attached Confidential Probation Decision and Mandate.
Date: February 19, 2016
M. Ray Bradford, Esq., Panel Chair
Sarah McPartland-Good, Esq., Panel Member
Milton R. Wright, Public Member