PORTLAND — A Rumford attorney fighting to keep his practice alive after he was put on probation for incompetence will make his case before a judge. The date and place have not been decided.

Attorney Seth Carey is appealing a restriction placed on his license to practice law in Maine in February by the Board of Overseers of the Bar, which governs the conduct of lawyers. 

Carey’s hope for overturning the ban was kept alive in Portland on Wednesday when Active-Retired Superior Court Justice G. Arthur Brennan denied a motion from the board’s counsel which would have had the effect of Carey admitting to improperly discharging his duties as a lawyer. 

On Wednesday, Brennan dismissed two of Carey’s motions — one to stay the case, and another to dismiss — because they were either out of order or based upon rules that applied to civil litigation, not the Board of Overseers of the Bar. 

Carey and the board’s counsel, attorney Scott Davis, have two weeks to file a list of names they expect will testify in an appeals hearing before Brennan. 

Carey, whose license to practice law in Maine remains active while he appeals, was placed on a two-year probation in February after a grievance panel for the board found Carey was unable to discharge his professional duties

Though they declined to recommend further punitive actions, such as a suspension or disbarment, the grievance panel’s scathing report described a lawyer more flamboyant than skilled. Its report, based on four days of hearings, found that Carey “was either unfamiliar or uncomfortable with criminal and civil procedure and with the rules of evidence.” 

The sanction was prompted after a magistrate in Lewiston filed a complaint that Carey had mishandled a family matters case. The report found Carey was unable to adapt to unexpected testimony, continued lines of questioning even after a judge had told him to stop and dragged along short hearings while he “groped for direction,” according to the report. 

The report quoted one justice, who observed there “was a fair piece of real estate between the lower end of competence and (Attorney Carey’s) performance,” and Carey was “close to the bottom of the barrel” of all lawyers he had seen.

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

Shortly after Carey filed his appeal, Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ellen Gorman found there was probable cause Carey could be suspended or disbarred and directed Davis to file formal charges. Davis said Carey “displayed a complete inability or refusal to understand” the motions he filed, which “resulted in a waste of judicial time and resources.”

Davis said Carey also mishandled a workers’ compensation claim, and “lacks basic legal abilities.” 

If upheld, for 18 months Carey would be barred from representing anyone except himself in court, filing motions or taking cases where there was a possibility of litigation. He would have to offload his pending cases to other lawyers and begin continuing education classes.

It would mark the third disciplinary action taken against Carey, who was previously suspended after complaints from lawyers and justices. 

The disciplinary proceedings are already intruding on Carey’s practice. Carey, who unsuccessfully sued the NFL over ‘Deflategate’, was removed from a 13-year battle over an inheritance left to homeless cats in Dixfield after his clients asked the court to force him from the case.

But even as Carey fights for survival, new allegations of misconduct have arisen, alleging that on nine occasions between February 2014 and December 2015 Carey paid his bills using money belonging to his clients.

Memos on the checks, which draw from pooled funding for indigent clients, show a drum lesson, a dentist visit and sponsorship for Mixed Martial Arts fighter Ryan Glover. The transactions were a breach of his fiduciary responsibilities to his clients, Davis wrote.

In court documents and again on Wednesday, Carey claimed he inadvertently used the account to pay for personal bills, saying he mistook it for his business account and that he’d had “problems” with the local branch of his bank. 

Carey has characterized the hearings against him as the testimony of a group of vindictive lawyers and judges intent on smearing his name. In court, he hinted those jurists, who include attorneys, clerks, court marshals and two assistant district attorneys, made inconsistent statements during the grievance panel hearing and requested Brennan listen to the audio recordings.

When Davis suggested the court set limits on the duration of testimony in order to save court resources, Carey objected.

“Of course he only wants to take a short time,” Carey said. While Davis only had a handful of witnesses, “I on the other hand have a hundred witnesses, years of clients, years of relationships with attorneys, opposing parties, judges and magistrates, voices who will drown out these rogue jurors.” 

“I’m hopeful the truth in this case will come out,” he said outside the courtroom. “And that I’ll be exonerated of any wrongdoing.” 

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