Maine’s highest court on Thursday upheld the three-year suspension of a former Auburn lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for district attorney last year.

Seth Carey’s right to practice law was suspended for three years in December 2018. He appealed that suspension and lost. Sun Journal file photo

A judge ruled in December 2018 that Seth Carey, 44, of Rumford, had committed sexual assault, tampered with a witness and failed to comply with a previous interim suspension order, among other violations.

Carey appealed that decision earlier this year.

Carey was barred from practicing law in Maine in April 2018, months before his unsuccessful bid for district attorney of Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. He had been successful in securing the Republican nomination for the seat in that party’s primary.

That suspension was followed by a three-day hearing a year ago on a complaint brought by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar charging multiple violations.

In September, Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren ruled in an 18-page order that Carey had violated several bar rules, including unlawful conduct stemming from his unwanted sexual advances involving a woman who lived at his Rumford home and his effort to pay for her silence about the matter. Carey also had engaged in law practice and had written checks on his professional account after his April suspension, which prohibited those actions.

Three months later, Warren ordered Carey’s three-year suspension.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Warren’s suspension order Thursday, writing in a 24-page decision that the judge “did not err by imposing a more moderate sanction that is tailored to reasonably protect the public and the courts, while still allowing Carey the opportunity to rehabilitate and demonstrate a capacity to abide by the rules and ethical standards that govern the conduct of all attorneys licensed to practice in Maine — a demonstration that Carey will need to make in order to re-enter the practice of law after at least three years.”

In a unanimous decision of the four justices presiding over the case, the court noted that Carey had been “no stranger to attorney disciplinary hearings.”

Since Carey had been admitted to the Maine Bar in 2006, his license to practice law in Maine has been suspended three times — not including the most recent suspension — for violations of the rules of ethics governing attorney conduct.

In 2009, Carey was sanctioned twice for misconduct, the court wrote. First, his license was suspended for six months and one day after a single justice concluded that Carey had, among other things, improperly communicated with other lawyers’ clients, demonstrated “a profound lack of candor and a clear willingness to mislead (Bar counsel) and the (Grievance Panel),” and exhibited “a lack of fundamental skills, competencies and preparation in trial work in general, and criminal defense in particular” — all in violation of the Maine Bar Rules.

Later in 2009, Carey was sanctioned for other misconduct he had committed while the earlier disciplinary action was pending, the court wrote.

The second order was entered by agreement on the basis of a complaint made by an acquaintance of Carey that, during a visit to her home, “Carey became emotionally out of control and, among other things, acted violently toward her puppy,” according to the court’s decision.

Then, in 2016, a single justice entered an agreed-to order finding that, over the course of several years, Carey had violated the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct in several respects, including competence, diligence and misconduct. That triggered a two-year suspension that was later itself suspended with more than two dozen conditions that allowed him to continue practicing law.

In April 2018, a Rumford District Court judge issued a protection from abuse order against Carey to a former tenant after finding he had “engaged in criminal activity, namely, unlawful sexual contact and assault.” That action prompted Warren to suspend Carey’s law practice pending a full hearing on those and other alleged violations.

In his Dec. 20 order, Warren wrote that “groping a female tenant on one occasion and pulling her head against his crotch on another occasion reflected adversely on Carey’s trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer,” but, he argued, Carey’s conduct, while serious, does not fall in the most serious range because it did not involve dishonesty or fraud and did not arise from a lawyer-client relationship.

Warren also added that “the woman in question was able to rebuff all of Carey’s unwanted advances, she was not highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and there is no evidence that she suffered psychological injury as a result of Carey’s conduct.”

During the August hearing, Carey had said he should be treated for mental health problems, including attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and a personality disorder with a narcissistic factor. He said he couldn’t afford the treatment because his law license had been suspended.

Last spring, Carey filed his appeal of Warren’s suspension order, arguing the judge had violated his constitutional rights and failed to consider the history of his accuser. He also faulted Warren in his 53-page brief with not allowing “relevant evidence” in his defense and for imposing a more severe sanction than comparable cases of attorney misconduct in Maine.

Carey reacted Thursday to the high court’s decision, taking issue with the accusations of sexual harassment and assault.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” he wrote in an email to the Sun Journal.

“I was hoping the court would see the obvious truth — that an ex-girlfriend with a long history of contact with police and for filing false PFAs, made this up in order to stay at my home. I was courted and preyed upon by someone I was helping.”

He wrote that the allegations “are false, but the justice system is not always just. I’m going to respect the order and work hard on myself, follow the requirements of the order, and work on my (cannabidiol) natural products lines to help people improve their health rather than help with their legal problems for now.”


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: