Topsham lawyer’s practice suspended for ignoring clients, courts

Posted July 12, 2012, at 11:48 a.m.
Last modified July 12, 2012, at 6 p.m.

TOPSHAM, Maine — The Maine Board of Overseers has temporarily suspended a Topsham-based lawyer from the practice of law, alleging that she has engaged in a pattern of unresponsiveness to clients, courts and the board itself.

Carolyn M. Asquith of Brunswick, who was suspended as of Monday, faces a final hearing in the case on July 26, according to J. Scott Davis, an attorney for the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar. Neither Asquith nor her attorney, C. Walter Smith, returned calls from the Bangor Daily News seeking comment.

Asquith’s problems began in June 2011, when District Court Judge Valerie Stanfill filed a complaint with the board that Asquith had failed to report itemized billing in a case, failed to comply with a court order and failed to attend a scheduled court conference in Lewiston District Court, according to a petition for temporary suspension written by Davis and filed in May.

The judge’s complaint led to an investigation by the Board of Overseers, whose primary function is to govern the conduct of lawyers and enforce the Maine Bar Rules. According to Davis, Asquith failed to file a written response to the allegations. This was the first of six complaints of misconduct by Asquith the board had received.

In September 2011, two of Asquith’s clients filed separate but related complaints in regards to fees they had paid to Asquith.

“Asquith totally ignored and failed to file any reply,” reads the petition. “She also failed to appear at the Fee Arbitration Commission Panel’s hearing on January 19, 2012.”

Later that month, the panel ordered Asquith to refund the two clients a total of $13,000, but Asquith failed to do so within a 30-day deadline and did not respond to further inquiries from the Board of Overseers in the matter, according to Davis.

In another matter, Attorney Neil S. Shankman filed a complaint against Asquith in October 2011, alleging that she failed to comply with a court order related to a family matter in Wiscasset District Court. Again, Asquith failed to respond to the complaint by a court-ordered deadline.

In January 2012, a contractor from Bangor filed a complaint with the board after Asquith failed to pay her for research done at Waldo County Registry of Deeds in April 2011. As with the board’s past complaints, Asquith did not respond.

Another complaint was filed against Asquith in May in relation to a divorce case for which Asquith was paid a $1,200 retainer. The complainant alleges that Asquith failed to file necessary documentation in the West Bath District Court case by a March 15 deadline. Asquith failed to appear at a hearing related to the divorce on May 7, and the client was forced to represent herself.

“By her apparent misconduct in [the] case, Asquith has improperly received an attorney fee without performing any or sufficient legal services, and has also abandoned and neglected that client at the time of her most urgent need, the date of her divorce hearing,” reads the petition written by Davis. “Asquith’s serious misconduct in the … case is ongoing and current, and confirms an urgent need for Asquith to be immediately temporarily suspended from the practice of law in Maine. Her clients and the public are at risk.”

Asquith’s conduct in the divorce case remains under investigation. According to Davis, this is not the first time Asquith’s law license has been in peril. She was administratively suspended from practice by the board for brief periods in 2009 and 2011 because of her failure to comply with annual registration requirements.

Asquith is scheduled to face the charges against her at 2 p.m. July 26 at Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.

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