BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has suspended a Bangor estate attorney from the practice of law for three months. But the sanction itself was suspended by the court.
Calvin E. True, 61, of Clifton, a partner in the Eaton Peabody law firm, was suspended for overbilling clients in 2004 by about $8,500 during the sale of timberlands valued at $25 million from an estate.
True’s conduct was found to be unethical but not criminal. He can continue to practice law.
“I made a mistake,” True said Wednesday. “I filed the report myself to the Board of Overseers. I have expressed my sincere apology both to my partners and to my clients. I want all to know this is isolated conduct which I deeply regret and for which I take full responsibility.”
For two other violations of the bar rules that govern the conduct of attorneys, the court issued warnings to True for his misconduct but did not impose a suspension.
In one of the incidents, the court found that in 2004 True improperly used about $15,000 of the $1 million the buyer of the timberland parcel submitted as earnest money to pay staff bonuses and his son’s legal bills. That money should have been held in trust until the deal closed and then gone toward the purchase price.
True should not have authorized payment from the trust account without the client’s permission, according to the court’s order. The money was repaid by True to the account.
In the other incident, True failed to report a conflict of interest in 2005 when he assisted his son in trying to buy a client’s home, the court found.
For confidentiality reasons, the names of the clients involved have not been made public.
The court’s disciplinary order is dated Dec. 2. Its issuance followed a hearing that day at which True “expressed his remorse and apologized for his misconduct.” It was released Wednesday to the media by the Maine Overseers of the Bar.
True self-reported his misconduct to the overseers in March 2006. It is the first time he has been disciplined in his 35 years as a lawyer, all of which has been with Eaton Peabody, according to the court’s order.
“The matters that were the subject of the recent order occurred in 2005,” Dan McKay, managing partner of Eaton Peabody, said Wednesday in a statement e-mailed to the Bangor Daily News. “They were thoroughly investigated by the firm when it became aware of them. They were promptly disclosed to the affected clients and were voluntarily reported to the Maine Board of Bar Overseers by Mr. True in 2006.
“We believe that all matters were resolved to the satisfaction of the affected clients,” he continued. “Based upon the firm’s own investigation, which included reviews by independent lawyers and accountants not affiliated with the firm, we are not aware of any other violations by members of the firm of the Maine Bar Rules in connection with these matters or any other matters.
“The firm has had and continues to have in place stringent policies and controls designed to ensure that incidents of this type do not recur and that the interests of all of our clients are fully protected,” McKay concluded.
True graduated from the University of Maine in 1969 and from Northeastern School of Law in Boston in 1972, according to information on Eaton Peabody’s Web site. He serves on the boards of the Maine Community Foundation, Eastern Maine Charities, Bangor Fuel Society and the Maine Estate Planning Council.
“In addition to estate planning and probate matters for individuals,” the firm’s Web site states, “Mr. True advises many closely held and family owned businesses on tax and corporate [matters]. He also serves as clerk of numerous corporations and trustee of several charitable foundations.”