A board that monitors the conduct of Maine’s lawyers is seeking an appeal of a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling that said no lawyers at a prestigious Portland law firm violated ethics rules in connection with a theft by one of their partners more than three years ago.

The Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar filed its notice to appeal with the state’s high court within 21 days of Justice Donald Alexander’s Dec. 29 decision. The Board has until April 6 to file its brief to make legal arguments in favor of its appeal.

The six lawyers at Verrill Dana who were accused by the board have until May 25 to respond with counter-arguments, a clerk at the high court said Thursday.

After several days of disciplinary hearings in December, Alexander wrote in a 35-page order that lawyers David Warren, James Kilbreth III, Eric Altholz, Mark Googins, Roger Clement Jr. and Juliet Browne shouldn’t be professionally sanctioned because they hadn’t violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The board had brought the action against the six lawyers in connection with the theft of firm and client funds totaling roughly $300,000 by then-partner John Duncan in 2007. Duncan was convicted in a plea agreement on charges of theft and tax evasion. He served two years in federal prison and was disbarred for life.

The Board of Overseers of the Bar had argued that the six lawyers — including then-managing partner Warren and the executive board and its chairman, Kilbreth — had violated several provisions of the ethics code by delaying action against Duncan and failing to report his misconduct in a timely manner.

Justice Alexander said the lawyers acted in good faith on the limited information they had at the time.

Keith Jones, managing partner at Verrill Dana, said in a written statement Thursday: “Justice Alexander conducted an exhaustive review of the facts and law in this matter. We believe that there is no basis for this appeal, and are confident the full court will uphold Justice Alexander’s decision.”

Attorneys for the six lawyers have filed a motion seeking to expedite the process.

“This matter has dragged on for over three years already and had been the subject of grossly unfair, inflammatory, and prejudicial attention in the press,” they wrote in an amended motion. “This court should bring this matter to conclusion as rapidly as possible in the interests of fundamental fairness.”


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