Rumford lawyer Seth Carey was placed on two years of probation earlier this month for failing to properly discharge his professional duties.

As part of that probation, Carey is being forced to turn his current cases over to another lawyer.

This is not the first time he has been professionally disciplined.

Carey has been suspended twice after the bar received complaints from lawyers and judges. He was last reinstated in 2010 following a suspension on complaints of ethical and competency lapses.

In the most recent situation, which came before a panel of the grievance commission at the Overseers of the Bar this past fall, several Maine judges testified that Carey appeared, at times, incompetent to represent his clients in court. In addition, the board learned of a harassment notice against Carey filed by the Rumford Police Department after he became aggressive and was blocked from entering the police station.

During his probation, Carey must:


* Not appear at any court proceedings representing anyone but himself for the next year and a half;

* Notify his litigation clients of the panel’s decision and refer those clients to a different attorney;

* Not file any legal documents in any court on behalf of any client other than himself for the next year and a half;

* Not accept any new cases that may involve litigation in order to resolve them;

* Participate in at least four trial practice-oriented continuing legal education classes that are certified by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, two of which must include role-playing or participation in mock trials;

* Begin psychological counseling within a month of the Feb. 5 order to address concerns outlined by the Maine Assistance Program for Lawyers and Judges; and


* Repay the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar more than $4,000 for costs related to the investigation and processing of the disciplinary matter.

During the final six months of his probation, Carey is encouraged to work with an experienced trial lawyer on cases conducted by that lawyer. Carey can arrange to be paid or work voluntarily, according to the report.

Two of the three panel members supported the imposed sanction; the commission’s chairman dissented, preferring that the matter be turned over to a single justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for further consideration.

“Attorney Carey’s incompetence is of such depth to justify the further discipline that could be imposed by the court,” Peter Fessenden wrote in his dissent.

Fessenden referred in his dissent to two overriding concerns raised during the commission’s hearing.

“The first was his insulting and ineffective ad hominem attacks on witnesses that persisted despite repeated rulings from the chair that they had no relevance to the issues presented in this case. The second was a steady flow of bizarre pleadings and pretrial motions that betrayed a profound disregard of due process and applicable procedures under the Maine Bar Rules,” Fessenden wrote.


A 2001 graduate of the Vermont Law School, Carey practiced law in Rumford for roughly three years after he was admitted to the Maine Bar in 2006. After he was disciplined by the Overseers of the Bar, Carey moved to Florida where he lived from 2009 to 2013. When he returned to Rumford, he resumed a general legal practice.

The commission’s recent sanction was prompted by a complaint brought in December 2014 by State Court Magistrate Maria A. Woodman.

Among the commission’s findings was the testimony from three judges and Woodman that, during court proceedings, Carey often “was either unfamiliar or uncomfortable with criminal and civil procedure and with the rules of evidence,” according to the commission’s report.

When a judge would sustain an objection from opposing counsel, Carey, “persisted in the same line of questioning either because he did not understand the court’s ruling or because he did not know what else to do,” the report said.

One judge observed: “there ‘was a fair piece of real estate between the lower end of competence and (Attorney Carey’s) performance,’ and that he was ‘close to the bottom of the barrel’ of all lawyers he had seen,” according to the report.

Prosecutors reported that Carey “returned repeatedly to arguments that he had been instructed by the bench to cease.”


Moreover, the Rumford Police Department secured a harassment notice against Carey after he “was so aggressive in pursuing extra-judicial discovery,” according to the report.

Carey’s first suspension followed a recommendation by a grievance commission of the Board of Overseers of the Bar, which held hearings on several complaints lodged against Carey by several people.

A complaint brought by one of the judges questioned Carey’s competence to handle criminal matters in her courtroom. In the earlier suspension, Maine Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Andrew Mead ordered Carey to “demonstrate that he has undertaken further education in trial advocacy and professional ethics” before he could be reinstated.

He also had to show that he had “obtained the services of an established trial attorney (not a relative or member of his father’s law firm) with a demonstrated expertise in trial and criminal defense advocacy to monitor and mentor him” for a year after his reinstatement.

The second complaint lodged against Carey came from a woman who alleged he physically abused her German shepherd puppy at her home. She said he was expressing his anger toward a prosecutor for the board who had been handling complaints brought by Maine lawyers and judges at the time the dog was injured. Carey later refused to leave the woman’s home after being asked to. She described his behavior as “unhinged” and said she was wary of being in his presence.

Carey has recently been involved as legal counsel in a high-profile case in Dixfield.


In early January, on behalf of the town of Dixfield and five volunteers who have been caring for stray cats in Dixfield for decades, Carey filed suit in Oxford County Superior Court against the attorney representing the estate of Barbara Thorpe and the estate’s trustees. In the suit, Carey alleges that Rumford attorney David Austin and Trustees Gertrude Crosby, Bentley Crosby and Charlotte Mesko have improperly managed the estate and failed to fulfill Thorpe’s wishes to donate the bulk of her estate to the “abandoned and unwanted cats of Dixfield.”

Last week, Portland attorney Neal Pratt, who represents Austin and the trustees, filed a motion to dismiss the case. Pratt asserts the trustees have fulfilled their obligations under the Thorpe Trust and that the cat caretakers have no standing to sue Austin or the trustees.

The Sun Journal contacted Carey by email for comment on the probation order. He called the commission’s action “an internal disagreement amongst lawyers.” 

— Managing Editor Judith Meyer contributed to this report.

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