PARIS — A lawyer dismissed by his clients from an ongoing legal battle over an inheritance left to the homeless cats of Dixfield has launched a flurry of legal challenges to stay on the case, forming a nonprofit he said should be in control of the estate.

Last week, Rumford attorney Seth Carey asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to reconsider its decision upholding a lower court’s ruling removing him as counsel to a group of cat caretakers.

In support of that motion, Carey said he’s created an animal charity, Friends of Dixfield Cats, arguing that it gave him legal standing to mount a fight.

Paperwork for the nonprofit was submitted July 29, the same day as the appeal, and is pending approval by the Secretary of State. 

Simultaneously, Carey has asked a lower court to allow seven new plaintiffs into the case: himself, the proposed nonprofit, four Rumford residents and a former local now living in Old Orchard Beach. 

The motions are the latest twist in a convoluted case approaching its 14th year. In 2002, resident Barbara Thorpe died, leaving the bulk of her $200,000 estate for “the purpose of providing shelter, food and health care for abandoned and unwanted cats in the town of Dixfield,” and appointed trustees to oversee the estate. 

In January, five women who have been caring for stray cats in Dixfield for the past four decades filed suit against the trustees, claiming the funds were never disbursed and the estate had been mismanaged.

Carey, who filed the original lawsuit on behalf of five women, was removed from the case by Justice Robert Clifford in June after his clients — Brenda Jarvis, Donna Weston, Noreen Clarke, Valerie Warriner and Caroline Smith — wrote letters to the court saying they no longer wanted his counsel. 

In response, Carey has argued that his clients’ request for help from the Attorney General’s Office was “underhanded” and based upon the “hysteria” created by a Sun Journal article on a two-year probation from practicing law handed down for competency concerns. Carey’s license to practice law remains active pending an appeal

Like the original plaintiffs, those being proposed were not named in Thorpe’s will. Instead, Carey said that they are “a supporter and advocate for the beneficiary of the Dixfield cats.” 

Carey wrote that the new plaintiffs have a legal right to intervene because of the nonprofit’s status as a charity, but also “a moral right to save limitless cats from the peril that the unwitting Plaintiffs, the dissolute Attorney General’s Office and the immoral and criminal Defendants will surely place on them.”

The motion does not explicitly call for his former clients to be removed from the case. Instead, Carey said that the involvement of the new plaintiffs will ensure, “an independent, trustworthy third-party neutral unpaid volunteer person oversees and fairly distributes the funds for the Dixfield cats, including increasing the amount of shelters in Dixfield.” 

Calls to attorneys for the defendants and Attorney General’s Office were not returned Thursday. A motion to dismiss the case entirely is pending. 

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