PARIS — Oxford County Superior Court Justice Robert Clifford has been asked to confirm that Rumford attorney Seth Carey is no longer representing those suing over money to care for stray cats in Dixfield.

According to the lawsuit filed in January by Carey, the town of Dixfield and five women caring for the strays claim trustees of Barbara Thorpe’s estate and their attorney have enriched themselves by billing excessive fees to the trust and have failed for more than 13 years to carry out Thorpe’s intention to finance the care and feeding of abandoned cats in Dixfield.

Cat caretakers Brenda Jarvis, Donna Weston, Noreen Clarke, Valerie Warriner and Caroline Smith filed suit against trustees Gertrude Crosby, Bentley Crosby and Charlotte Mesko, all of Winslow, and Rumford attorney David Austin, who represented Thorpe before she died and drafted her will, and who began representing the Crosbys after Thorpe’s death in 2002.

The defendants have denied the allegations.

Thorpe left the bulk of her $200,000 estate to provide shelter, food and health care to abandoned cats in town. She named her housekeeper, Gertrude Crosby, to see that the cats would be provided for. However, her will did not specifically say which organization or person was to receive those assets or how and when the money should be disbursed.

No more than a few thousand dollars have been disbursed for the cats, while lawyers have collected over $16,000, and $22,679 was paid to the trustees, according to the lawsuit. 

The five women are paying for care of about 75 cats, including food and litter, grooming, heat for two homes and travel expenses to feed and check on feral cats throughout Dixfield.

In February, after Carey was placed on probation for two years by the Maine State Bar Association for failing to properly discharge his professional duties in an unrelated matter, the plaintiffs assumed he was no longer involved in the case.

Carey’s father, attorney Thomas Carey, in a letter to the court dated March 3, offered to fill in for his son temporarily.

The younger Carey, however, was reinstated to practice law after he gave notice that he intended to appeal the probation. A hearing on his appeal is set for Friday, April 15, in Portland.

Since his reinstatement, Carey has filed a flurry of petitions and appeals on behalf of the cat caretakers and the town.

He took exception to Justice Clifford granting a petition from attorneys Christina Moylan and Linda Conti — on behalf of Attorney General Janet Mills — to be named a plaintiff.

On April 6, Carey wrote to the court that he represents “all named plaintiffs” in the case. He took offense to a March 29 letter by Moylan to the court that said Carey did not directly state “whether or not he continued to represent the plaintiffs, but suggested he does.”

Carey wrote, “In sum, it matters little whom I represent … I represent the best interests of the cats of the town of Dixfield.”

He wrote, “I am highly disturbed that the assistant attorney general is still a party to this case … in general, the named plaintiffs have been lured to the allure of having the ‘popular’ AG’s Office ‘help’ with this matter.

“Moreover, they think that they will be able to get ‘free legal services’ (paid by the taxpayers of course) so that they will not have to pay me or our firm for the hundreds of hours we have put in for the ‘real’ clients in this case: the ‘Cats of Dixfield.'”

Moylan provided the court with transcripts of recent telephone messages from Warriner and Weston recorded at the Attorney General’s Office. The first from Warriner said, “… I read the paper and I wanted to make sure you guys know that we had no knowledge that Seth Carey gave you an indication that we did not want the attorney general to help with this. That motion that he filed, or whatever it was, I had no idea about. He did it without talking to us and we need to talk to you.”

The second transcript from an April 8 call from Weston said, “We read in the paper that Tom Carey is taking over. That’s his thing, none of us even know the man. We’ve never spoken to him … What is it we have to do to get rid of the Careys?”

Moylan wrote to the court, “We believe we are unable to discuss this matter with the Plaintiffs unless and until we have confirmation from the court that they are not represented by Seth Carey.”

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