The Legislature is considering whether the qualifications to run for district attorney in Maine should be changed after a lawyer suspended from practice last year won a shot at the job in western Maine.
Seth Carey, 44, of Rumford was suspended from practicing law when he won the Republican primary to run for the job of top prosecutor in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties. He lost in November to the incumbent district attorney, Democrat Andrew Robinson, by nearly 13,000 votes, according to official election results.
Carey was suspended from practicing law by the Maine Board of Overseers in spring 2018 before the primary election after a woman accused him of sexual assault. He has denied the accusations, and his appeal is pending before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
In addition to the suspension, Carey has been charged in Androscoggin County with practicing law without a license.
Currently, the law requires only that candidates for district attorney “be admitted to the practice of law” in Maine and live in the prosecutorial district in which they are a candidate.
LD 540, if passed, also would bar candidates who have been suspended from the practice of law in the previous 10 years. A public hearing on the bill was held Thursday before the Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Joshua Morris, R-Turner, said he sponsored the bill “because it is important that the person who is the district attorney meet ethical and competency standards of the profession.”
Morris did not name Carey but referred to a suspended lawyer who ran for district attorney last year in the prosecutorial district that included his district.
Committee member Rep. Thom Harnett, D-Gardiner, said that he supported the bill.
“While this person was not elected, he did get more than 10,000 votes and that is disconcerting to me,” Harnett, a former assistant attorney general, said.
No one spoke in opposition to the bill, but Carey’s attorney, James Howaniec of Lewiston, called the bill “legislative overreach” when contacted after the hearing.
“The voters can sort out these issues on their own,” he said. “The fact that a suspended lawyer got so many votes speaks more about the quality of the candidates than any flaws in the election process.”
A work session on the proposal is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday.