Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Mark L. Walker, Esq.
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Docket No.: GCF# 17-226
Issued by: Grievance Commission
Date: June 7, 2018
Respondent: Mark L. Walker, Esq.
Bar Number: 007841
Disposition/Conduct: Competence, Diligence, Communication
M. Bar R. 13(e)
On June 7, 2018, with due notice, Panel D of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 13(e), concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Mark L. Walker, Esq. The Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) commenced this proceeding by the March 22, 2018 filing of a Stipulated Disciplinary Petition.
At the hearing, Attorney Walker appeared pro se and the Board was represented by Deputy Bar Counsel Aria Eee. Also present were the complainants, Harriet and David Schmidt.
Prior to the scheduled hearing date, the parties notified the Clerk that they had negotiated a proposed settlement of the disciplinary matter. The proposed sanction report was submitted to the Clerk for the Commission’s advanced review and consideration. The Schmidts had also been provided with a copy of the parties’ proposed Stipulated Report in advance of the stipulated hearing.
Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Grievance Commission Panel makes the following disposition:
Respondent Mark L. Walker, Esq. (Attorney Walker) 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 Walker is subject to the Maine Bar Rules, and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct (M.R.P.C.). Attorney Walker was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1982 and he is currently practicing in a small Hallowell firm.
According to the parties’ stipulations, the Panel finds the following relevant facts:
On May 31, 2017, Harriet and David Schmidt filed a complaint against Attorney Walker, alleging neglect and a lack of communication. Attorney Walker responded to the Schmidt’s complaint, generally admitting his failure to expedite their legal matter and maintain regular contact with them.
Specific to that legal matter, in 2013, the Schmidts had hired Attorney Walker for representation which included review and execution of a rental lease concerning their former Hallowell restaurant. The Schmidts also consulted with Attorney Walker because of A/C failures resulting in financial losses incurred by the restaurant. Attorney Walker provided the Schmidts with advice related to their various options. He developed a successful working relationship with them and intended to help achieve their goals to resolve their legal disputes. Attorney Walker continues to serve as counsel for the Schmidts.
Nonetheless, Attorney Walker acknowledges a lack of ample communication with his clients. After receiving the Schmidt’s bar complaint, Walker then discussed with them a proposed plan whereby he would have weekly communication/status updates and would expedite his efforts to meet their litigation goals. Unfortunately, Attorney Walker has achieved only nominal progress to advance the Schmidts’ goals and to reassure them of his commitment to their legal matter. While he has made phone calls to related entities and sought meetings to resolve the disputed issues, his more recent efforts have not yet led to actionable results. Those failures have proved understandably frustrating to Mrs. and Mr. Schmidt.
Attorney Walker agrees that his performance on behalf of the Schmidts was below acceptable standards of care for an attorney. It also constituted professional misconduct in violation of M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.1[competence]; 1.3[diligence]; and 1.4(a)[communication]. The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct specifically requires attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to clients and the courts. Attorney Walker agrees that he violated his duties to comply with those Rules.
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. Since the evidence supports a finding and Attorney Walker agrees that he did in fact violate the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Grievance Commission must now issue an appropriate sanction. Pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(6)(8), prior to imposing a sanction, the Commission has considered the existence or absence of any prior sanction record.
The Commission relies on Maine Bar Rule 21(c) for guidance as to the proper factors to consider and apply in the issuance of an appropriate disciplinary sanction. Maine Bar Rule 21 states as follows:
(c) Factors to be Considered in Imposing Sanctions. In imposing a sanction after a finding of lawyer misconduct, the Single Justice, the Court, or the Grievance Commission panel shall consider the following factors, as enumerated in the ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions:
- whether the lawyer has violated a duty owed to a client, to the public, to the legal system, or to the profession;
- whether the lawyer acted intentionally, knowingly, or negligently;
- the amount of the actual or potential injury caused by the lawyer's misconduct; and
- the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.
In this matter, Attorney Walker agrees that his misconduct violated duties that he owed to his clients and to the profession. There is injury to his clients based upon Attorney Walker’s delayed efforts. As well, the Schmidts unnecessarily experienced distress and uncertainty associated with resolution of their legal matters. However, the Commission does not find that Attorney Walker acted with the intent to harm his clients’ interests; in fact, he continued to try to assist them but has not been successful in doing so.
Regarding aggravating factors, Attorney Walker has substantial experience in the practice of law. In mitigation, Attorney Walker has no prior disciplinary record, he has admitted his misconduct, has expressed remorse for that misconduct and has been cooperative throughout the investigation and prosecution of this matter.
Taking all of the above factors into consideration, and consistent with the analysis outlined in M. Bar R. 21(c), the Commission finds that a Public Reprimand is the appropriate sanction to address the misconduct by Attorney Walker. Therefore, the Commission accepts the agreement of the parties, including Attorney Walker’s separately executed waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a REPRIMAND to Mark L. Walker, Esq. which is now hereby issued and imposed upon him pursuant to M. Bar R. 13(e)(1) and 21(b)(5).
Date: June 7, 2018
Teresa M. Cloutier, Esq., Panel Chair
Carolyn A. Silsby, Esq., Panel Member
Emilie van Eeghen, Public Member