Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Kimberly C. Cavanagh, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 17-214
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: May 25, 2018
Respondent: Kimberly C. Cavanagh, Esq.
Bar Number: 008966
Disposition/Conduct: Diligence, Proper Communication, Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice
M. Bar R. 13(e)
On May 25, 2018, with due notice, Panel A of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e), concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Kimberly C. Cavanagh, 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 February 27, 2018.
At the hearing, the Board was represented by Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis, and Attorney Cavanagh appeared with her counsel, Attorney James M. Bowie.
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 Panel A’s review and consideration. The complainant, Leslie Y.R. Love, had earlier been provided with a copy of the parties’ proposed Stipulated Report. Bar Counsel Davis confirmed that Ms. Love had indicated her understanding and agreement with that proposed Report as well as her election to not attend this proceeding.
Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Kimberly C. Cavanagh, Esq. (Attorney Cavanagh) of Dover-Foxcroft, 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. Attorney Cavanagh was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1999 and she is currently engaged in solo practice.
On May 23, 2017, Leslie Y.R. Love filed her complaint against Attorney Cavanagh who then filed her initial response on June 26, 2017.
During the course of the Board’s investigation, Ms. Love and Attorney Cavanagh were each afforded respective opportunities for rebuttal and supplemental responses, resulting in a fully developed investigation, pursuant to M. Bar R. 2(b)(2) & 13(b).
On November 2, 2017 a panel of the Grievance Commission reviewed Attorney Cavanagh’s actions in this matter and found probable cause to believe that she had engaged in misconduct subject to sanction under the Maine Bar Rules. As a result, that review panel directed Bar Counsel to prepare and present a formal charges disciplinary petition before a different panel of the Grievance Commission.
This grievance complaint concerns Attorney Cavanagh’s failure to properly, competently and timely perform legal services for Leslie Love.
Ms. Love had hired Attorney Cavanagh to help her deal with property issues related to land that her father had deeded to her, retaining a life estate for himself, with payment of property taxes being made by him. Attorney Cavanagh had been retained by Ms. Love in August of 2015 to take action to protect Ms. Love’s legal interests when her father ceased making payment of property taxes on that “shared” real estate.
In Attorney Cavanagh’s response letter to Bar Counsel’s investigative inquiry she agreed and confirmed that she had not properly and timely replied to Ms. Love as to the status of any legal action(s) taken by her for Ms. Love’s benefit. Ms. Love claimed she had called Attorney Cavanagh over 100 times, receiving only a few replies by Attorney Cavanagh or her staff. In that regard, Attorney Cavanagh referenced her own personal domestic problems as being the primary cause for such neglect of any meaningful action being taken or replies made for Ms. Love’s benefit in her legal action against her father. These personal issues were significant, including two relatively public mental health emergencies involving a family member and requiring significant first responder involvement, as well as the abrupt end to her marriage leaving her as a single mom to two school age children.
In addition, Attorney Cavanagh’s failure to effectively communicate caused Ms. Love to believe that an action on her behalf had been filed in court, but Ms. Love then confirmed that no such formal court action was ever so filed on her behalf.
As a result of Ms. Love’s grievance filing, on July 3, 2017 Attorney Cavanagh withdrew from further representation of Love. However, after Attorney Cavanagh’s withdrawal, Ms. Love later hired new counsel who has been able to properly advise her as to her available options.
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. In that regard, Attorney Cavanagh agrees and admits that her conduct in this matter violated M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.3 [diligence]; 1.4(a) [proper communication]; and 8.4(d) [conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice]. The panel notes that Attorney Cavanagh has now taken responsibility for her transgressions and there is little likelihood of repetition by her. The panel also notes that her conduct ultimately caused little or no injury to a client (Ms. Love), the public, the legal system, or the profession. At the disciplinary hearing, Attorney Cavanagh expressed her remorse for the upset she had caused and the lack of communication she had with Ms. Love.
Since the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Cavanagh agrees that she 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 against Attorney Cavanagh under M. Bar R. 21(b)(1) is the appropriate sanction.
Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Cavanagh’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 Kimberly C. Cavanagh, Esq. which is now hereby issued and imposed upon her pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(10)(B) and 21(b)(1).
Date: May 25, 2018
Jane S.E. Clayton, Esq., Panel Chair
John P. Gause, Esq., Panel Member
Milton R. Wright, Public Member