Ethics hearings set for six Portland lawyers

Posted Dec. 13, 2010, at 6:02 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Disciplinary hearings for six lawyers from a prominent Maine firm are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Lewiston.

The Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar is seeking professional sanctions against six attorneys from Verrill Dana, a Portland law firm. They are managing partner David Warren; James Kilbreth III, who was chairman of Verrill Dana’s executive board in the summer of 2007; and lawyers Eric Altholz, Juliet Browne, Roger Clement Jr. and Mark Googins, who served on the firm’s executive board, according to the Portland Press Herald.

The lawyers are accused of breaking ethics rules by engaging in “willful blindness” to the misconduct of former partner John Duncan three years ago. Duncan was disbarred and served two years in federal prison for stealing about $300,000 from clients.

In its disbarment order, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said Duncan “reported that he had diverted funds from a client who had previously appointed him to act under a durable power of attorney; instead of writing out the checks for legal services to the firm, he had written them to himself and deposited them into his own bank account. When confronted by the firm’s managing partner, he confessed that he diverted those funds, but falsely denied that he had diverted funds from other clients.”

An attorney representing four of the lawyers said she’s confident the six will be cleared of wrongdoing.

Supreme Court Justice Donald Alexander will hear arguments this week and decide whether the lawyers broke any professional rules and whether they should be sanctioned.

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