Lewiston lawyer suspended, ordered to address addiction

Posted Dec. 05, 2013, at 9:33 a.m.
Last modified Dec. 05, 2013, at 3:28 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Lewiston lawyer has been suspended from practice because of his substance abuse problems, according to information released Thursday by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar.

William B. Cote, 58, was temporarily suspended Tuesday, according to the organization that governs the conduct of lawyers licensed to practice in Maine.

The Interim Order of Suspension, signed by Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Joseph Jabar, said that Cote “appears to be incapacitated by reasons of addiction to drugs or intoxicants. As a result, he has committed violations of the Maine Rule of Professional Conduct, thereby serving as a threat to his clients, members of the public and to the administration of justice.”

This is the second time Cote has left the practice because of addiction to drugs or alcohol. The first time, in 1988, Cote resigned from the bar and relinquished his license. His license was reinstated in 1992.

Cote, who is a solo practitioner, may apply for reinstatement after he “undergoes successful treatment” and is actively compliant with a contract with the Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers and Judges.

MAP was created in 2002 by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to address confidentially the impairment of lawyers or judges from the effects of chemical dependency or mental conditions that result from disease, disorder, trauma or other infirmities that lessen their ability to practice or serve.

Jabar also ordered that a proxy be appointed to manage Cote’s law office in Lewiston so that “his clients’ interests will be protected.”

The affidavit and exhibits presented that led to the suspension have been sealed, according to information released by the Board of Overseers.

In 1991, three years after Cote relinquished his license, the Board of Overseers held three hearings to consider his application for reinstatement to the bar.

During the course of those hearings, several colleagues who had participated in the Bar Association Substance Abuse Committee as lawyers in recovery themselves testified in support of Cote’s reinstatement. In considering that testimony, the Board of Overseers noted in its report that “there are today in Maine successful attorneys who are in recovery” and that these recovering attorneys are “willing and able to participate in programs to assist others” without compromising the confidentiality of clients.

At the time, the board also found that Cote had a supportive circle of friends and colleagues to aid him in his return to practice, and that his sponsor and treating physician’s testimony supported a finding that “Cote is an excellent prospect for continued recovery.”

In ordering the reinstatement of Cote’s license in January 1992, the board also recommended that the court direct the Overseers of the Bar “to establish a program to enable recovering attorneys” that would be staffed by volunteer lawyers to support and supervise Cote and others.

Cote also was ordered to file monthly or quarterly affidavits noting the details and dates of his attendance at support groups and that he undergo substance abuse counseling.

In 2008, he was appointed to the Board of Governors of the Maine State Bar Association.

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