Brewer lawyer suspended from practicing law for four years

Posted Dec. 27, 2013, at 3:27 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 27, 2013, at 7:41 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — A lawyer from Brewer has been suspended from practicing law for four years after violations of several provisions of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, according to a news release issued Friday by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar.

Jay Otis, whose office is located at 146 Parkway South and who was admitted to the bar in 1983, was suspended by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court effective Dec. 23 as the result of a Dec. 5 disciplinary hearing, which was precipitated by the filing of a petition for temporary suspension by the board.

Disciplinary actions against Otis began in March, when the board of overseers filed a petition for temporary suspension, which the court granted later in the month, according to an order of suspension filed Friday at Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

On April 4, the court placed Otis’ law practice into receivership, or placed it under the control of an independent party, and ordered that his office be secured. Attorneys Roberta Winchell and Barbara Cardone were appointed the receivers, the document said.

Among the problems an investigation into his practice turned up were an operating account that contained a zero balance and several unpaid bills, including office rent, bookkeeping, computer and technical support services and professional subscriptions. A serious concern was that Otis had allowed his malpractice insurance to lapse as of December 2012.

The document also described Otis’ mishandling of three divorce cases and a probate court matter involving a trust account. In addition, one of Otis’ receivers expressed concerns about his use of “double books” and potentially unearned advance payments.

The document also noted that on April 4, immediately after his law practice was secured, Otis was seen returning to his office “after hours,” without the necessary permission. Another tenant saw him leaving the building and quickly returning to his parked car.

About 6 a.m. the next day, the same tenant saw Otis leaving the building with his banker’s box. She also saw that his pickup was backed up to the steps of the entrance and that the back was so full he could hardly close the truck cap.

Winchell had the locks on his office changed and when she saw the office, she noted that files and a laptop that had been on his desk were missing and that the bankers’ boxes were missing as well.

Otis cannot seek reinstatement to the Maine Bar until March 2017. Before doing so, however, Otis must engage in services provided by the Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers and Judges, reimburse clients sums as determined by the Fee Arbitration Commission’s receiver attorney or paid by the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection, and obtain and maintain malpractice insurance.

The Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers and Judges addresses impairment from the effects of chemical dependency or mental conditions that result from disease, disorder, trauma, or other infirmity that impair the ability of a lawyer or judge to practice or serve, according to the program website.

Otis also must reimburse Winchell Law $5,978 toward costs associated with the closure of his practice and reimburse the overseers board $3,200 toward costs associated with investigating and prosecuting his case.

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