Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Matthew W. Howell, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 17-270
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: April 10, 2018
Respondent: Matthew W. Howell, Esq.
Bar Number: 004086
Disposition/Conduct: Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel, Misrepresentations, Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice
M. Bar R. 13(e)
On April 10, 2018, with due notice, Panel B of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e), concerning a claim of misconduct by the Respondent, Matthew W. Howell, Esq. This disciplinary proceeding had been commenced by the filing of a Disciplinary Petition by the Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) on December 8, 2017.
At the hearing, Attorney Howell was represented by his counsel, Attorney Carol I. Eisenberg, and the Board was represented by its Bar Counsel, J. Scott Davis.
Prior to the scheduled hearing date, the parties notified the Clerk that they had negotiated a proposed settlement of the disciplinary matter, with that proposed sanction report being submitted for GC Panel B’s review and consideration. The complainant, Stacey A. Durocher, had been provided with a copy of the parties’ proposed Stipulated Report. Mr. Durocher was present at that proceeding and allowed an opportunity to provide comment to the Panel. Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Matthew W. Howell, Esq. of York, 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 and subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney Howell was admitted to the Maine Bar in 2007 and he is currently practicing in a two-lawyer firm.
Stacey A. Durocher of North Berwick, Maine filed a grievance complaint against Attorney Howell on July 5, 2017. Attorney Howell filed his initial written response thereto on or about July 28, 2017.
During the course of the Board’s investigation, Complainant Durocher and Attorney Howell were afforded respective opportunities for rebuttal and supplemental responses, resulting in a complete investigation pursuant to M. Bar R. 2(b)(2) and 13(b).
Complainant Durocher’s grievance concerned a civil lawsuit he had filed against Brandon Perry for allegedly failing to correctly complete construction work on Durocher’s house.
Attorney Howell was legal counsel for Perry (and his company) in that litigation which was tried before an arbitrator on June 2, 2017.
The focus of Durocher’s grievance complaint concerned an incorrect statement of acquaintance with a witness made by Attorney Howell to Complainant Durocher during the course of Attorney Howell’s cross examination of him at the arbitration. Attorney Howell admits this statement was made to signal to Durocher that his testimony could be verified. Howell’s acquaintance with the witness was not a material issue in the arbitration and the statement appears to have had no effect on the outcome.
The arbitrator found in Perry’s favor, ordering Durocher to pay him $9,000.00.
Although Attorney Howell’s acquaintance with the witness was not a material fact and Attorney Howell’s conduct at issue had no critical bearing in the arbitrator’s decision, Attorney Howell now agrees that his conduct had the danger of providing false and misleading information in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 3.4(e) (fairness to opposing party and counsel) and 8.4(c)(d) (misrepresentations and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). He regrets the incident and provided assurance to the Panel that he will not repeat this or similar conduct.
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. The panel notes that Attorney Howell has taken responsibility for his transgressions and there is little likelihood of repetition by him. The panel also notes that his conduct caused little or no injury to a client, the public, the legal system, or the profession. At the disciplinary hearing, Attorney Howell expressed his remorse.
Since the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Howell agrees that he did in fact violate those above-referenced portions of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel has analyzed the proper sanction factors warranted under M. Bar R. 21. In that regard, under the required procedures of M. Bar R. 13(e)(6)(8), the Panel considered the existence or absence of any prior sanction record. Accordingly, upon that analysis for imposing a proper sanction concerning the many factors under M. Bar R. 21(c), including its finding of the presence of all the required prerequisites under M. Bar. R. 21(b)(1), the Panel finds that a public NON-DISCIPLINARY ADMONITION issued against Attorney Howell under M. Bar R. 21(b)(1) is the appropriate sanction.
Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Howell’s separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is an ADMONITION to Matthew W. Howell, Esq. which is now hereby issued pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(B) and 21(b)(1).
Date: April 10, 2018
Thomas H. Kelley, Esq., Panel Chair
Vendean V. Vafiades, Esq., Panel Member
Michael W. Arthur, LCPC, Public Member