CARIBOU, Maine — A Caribou attorney was disciplined last week by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar for misconduct during representation of clients in two separate civil and criminal proceedings.
Allan W. Hanson, a Caribou attorney, was suspended from practicing law for 60 days, Jacqueline Rogers, executive director of the Board of Overseers of the Bar, said Monday. But Hanson will not have to serve the suspension if he is able to comply with several conditions over the next two years. They include participating in the Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers, limiting his practice of law to specified areas during the two-year period and confidentially providing the overseers with a list of client names, cases and a weekly schedule of upcoming court appearances.
Hanson also is forbidden from committing any new ethical violations during the two-year period.
According to court documents, the first complaint against Hanson came on Feb. 15, 2013, when Camille Franck and David Blade filed individual grievance complaints against Hanson alleging misconduct during the course of his representation of Camille Franck in civil proceedings relating to a boundary dispute with Franck’s abutting landowners.
Franck owns real estate located in Limestone that abuts property used as an automobile graveyard, which is known as Caldwell’s Auto Parts, the documents stated. Prior to Hanson’s involvement in Franck’s matter, there was an ongoing dispute between Franck and Caldwell’s Auto Parts regarding the location of the boundary between the properties as well as Caldwell’s use of the property for an automobile graveyard.
Franck, accompanied by a friend, David Blade, met with Hanson in October 2010 and hired him to initiate litigation by filing a court complaint against the Town of Limestone for its reissuance of Caldwell’s annual permit to operate the automobile graveyard. By January 2011, both Blade and Franck wrote to Hanson, according to court documents, stating that they were dissatisfied with the lack of progress in Franck’s case against the town and requested he immediately take action on it.
In April 2011, Hanson filed a complaint in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou against the town of Limestone. He alleged that the permit for Caldwell’s automobile graveyard had been improperly issued by the town and requested that the court suspend the permit.
On September 13, 2011, Blade and Franck wrote to Hanson and again expressed their dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the case and the delay in their suit against the town. They also requested that he file a second lawsuit against the abutting property owners for related damages. Their request stated that they did “not have the time for this case to languish without resolution beyond 2012.”
Hanson took no further action on the case until he appeared at a pretrial conference on Aug. 31, 2012, when the court advised him that the complaint in the lawsuit was moot because the town had renewed Caldwell’s automobile graveyard permit subsequent to the filing of the lawsuit.
Six months later and more than two years after Camille Franck hired Hanson to sue the town of Limestone, Hanson filed a voluntary dismissal of the complaint in Caribou Superior Court.
Between Sept. 13, 2011, and Aug. 14, 2012, Franck and Blade contacted Hanson, or his office, on eleven separate occasions to inquire about the status of the proposed action against the property abutters, according to court documents.
When he did file the complaint against the abutters more than 11 months after being asked to do so, Hanson failed to include one of the parties involved.
In early January 2013, Franck told Hanson to amend the lawsuit to include that party as a co-defendant or he would get a new attorney and sue Hanson, the documents stated.
Franck and Blade filed their complaints with the Board of Overseers of the Bar in February 2013, according to court documents. The board found that between October 2010 and his withdrawal from representing the clients in April 2013, Hanson failed to reasonably consult with his client or to keep him reasonably informed of the status of his cases.
The second case involved Hanson’s court-appointed representation of Mark J. Theriault, 50, of Sinclair, who was charged with unlawful sexual contact. According to court documents, during the ensuing 16 months while the case was pending against Theriault, Hanson met with his client at his office no more than three times for periods of approximately one hour on each occasion.
Hanson received court approval to hire a private investigator to conduct an independent investigation of the serious allegations against his client, but he failed to hire one or to conduct any independent investigation.
He also failed to follow up on areas of investigation and defense theories that Theriault wanted to pursue.
During the February 2011 trial, Theriault followed Hanson’s advice and did not testify in his own defense, and the defense rested without presenting any witnesses or evidence on Theriault’s behalf.
He was found guilty, and sentencing took place two days later. Hanson did not request a presentence investigation, nor did he request sufficient time to prepare for sentencing. He did not prepare or present a written sentencing memorandum or analysis to the court, according to court documents.
At the sentencing hearing, the only witnesses who spoke in support of Theriault were his mother and daughter. Theriault was sentenced to 16 years in prison with all but eight years suspended and six years of probation.
The board found that Hanson “failed to adequately prepare Theriault or his witnesses for the sentencing proceeding, or to present any evidence to the court in mitigation of the sentence to be imposed as a result of Theriault’s conviction of that Class A crime.”
Hanson acknowledged to the board his “various errors on his part in relation to his representation of Camille Franck,” and agreed that “by filing two ineffectual lawsuits that ultimately were voluntarily dismissed and failing to join essential parties that he failed to provide competent representation to his client.”
Hanson also “understands and agrees that by not actively pursuing those lawsuits and allowing more than two years without taking significant action to benefit his client, that he failed to act with reasonable diligence.” The court documents stated that the attorney also understood that he failed to keep Franck apprised of the status of his cases.
In regard to Theriault, Hanson acknowledged that he did not use the court-approved private investigator to independently investigate the case or to pursue the areas of investigation suggested by his client. The attorney also admitted that he did not spend enough time with his client to prepare him for trial or to make decisions regarding whether he would testify. He also understands and agrees that he did not request additional time to prepare his case for sentencing, or to prepare his client and the other witnesses for the sentencing proceeding.
“Attorney Hanson understands and agrees that by those failures, he failed to reasonably communicate with his client; to provide competent representation; or to act with reasonable diligence in his client’s defense,” the decision stated.
The board also found that Hanson’s actions were not intentional.
Hanson has twice been publicly reprimanded, according to the board, once in December 2004 and again in August 2011. A grievance panel of the board found that he was guilty of such infractions as failure to diligently handle his clients’ claims, conduct unworthy of an attorney, handling a legal matter without preparation and neglect of a client’s legal matter.
According to a statement from the board, Hanson has agreed to all of the conditions and restrictions placed upon him.