PORTLAND – The Board of Overseers of the Bar has asked its counsel to begin disciplinary action against Rumford lawyer Seth Carey for misconduct.

The discipline could include suspension of Carey’s license to practice law.

The Board of Overseers’ grievance panel heard five complaints based on Carey’s behavior in private and public meetings in and around Rumford since 2007. Unrelated to his law practice or the complaints, Carey is leading the citizen-initiated casino referendum on the November ballot.

In the board’s decision, it found allegations of misconduct were proven in three of the five complaints. Specifically, it said Carey inappropriately had unauthorized contact with two people whom he knew or should have known where represented by their own counsel at the time.

In the first instance, Carey met former high school acquaintance Joshua Gagnon at the Rumford courthouse and talked with him about a number of topics, including Gagnon’s employment and income. Carey was at the courthouse seeking a continuance in a child custody case involving Gagnon and was representing Gagnon’s former spouse.

In the second instance, despite the fact that Carey was aware one party in a prolonged divorce case was represented by attorney David Austin, Carey drafted an agreement between the parties to the divorce, which Carey’s client then presented to his spouse for her approval. Austin said he had not received notice of this agreement and had not authorized contact between his client and Carey’s client, facts which Carey disputes.

The Board of Overseers notes in its decision that there is great discrepancy between the memories of the attorneys involved here, but that Maine Bar Association rules of conduct specifically prohibit attorneys from having direct or indirect communication with a “represented party without the prior consent of the lawyer representing that party,” finding that Austin had no prior notice of Carey’s indirect communication with Austin’s client.

This communication is inappropriate under Maine Bar rules even if the information Carey may have gathered from conversations is never used in either case.

“Because the panel finds there is evidence of serious misconduct in connection with (Carey’s) contact with two represented parties without prior consent of their attorneys, the panel directs bar counsel to commence a disciplinary action,” according to the decision.

The instructions of the three-member panel, made up of Maine lawyers David Abramson and Martha Gaythwaite and law professor Christine Holden, will require Carey to go to a hearing before a single member of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for consideration of suspension of his license or disbarment from practice.

Carey faces another hearing before a member of the law court on a separate complaint lodged by District Court Judge Valerie Stanfill in April over her concern about Carey’s competency. She said she wouldn’t appoint Carey to represent defendants in her courtroom because she was concerned his knowledge of the law was inadequate, believing him to be “constitutionally ineffective.”

That case has not yet been set for hearing, but the court is in the process of scheduling a second telephone conference with Carey and his attorney, Stephen Chute, who practices in Rumford.

In that case, Bar Counsel Aria eee is seeking temporary suspension of Carey’s license until all complaints against him have been resolved.

Of the five complaints that came before the Board of Overseers, two were dismissed because they did not rise to the level of Bar violations.

“There is no question that (Carey) made statements that were ill-mannered, bad-tempered and provocative,” according to the panel, but he made the statements as a private citizen in the midst of “heated political debate” at various public meetings, which fall within Carey’s First Amendment right of free speech.

During the hearing on these complaints, Carey admitted his actions were “brash, intemperate and excessive,” occasionally rude and out of turn, but that his fervor was a result of his commitment to his town and his desire to push for economic development projects in Oxford County, including his casino project.

“I am pleased at the panel’s decision to drop most of the allegations by competing attorneys in Rumford,” Carey said, adding that he anticipates the remaining charges would also eventually be dropped.

Carey has voluntarily offered to temporarily stop practicing law and to take some continuing education courses.

Carey attended law school at the University of Vermont and graduated in 2001 and was admitted to the Maine bar on May 24, 2006. He is currently practicing at his family’s firm, Carey & Associates, in Rumford.

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