RULE 23. Lawyers Found Guilty of a Crime

(a)     Notification. A Maine lawyer found guilty of any crime shall, within 30 days after the judgment, transmit a certified copy of the judgment of conviction to counsel for the lawyer disciplinary agency of every jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice. The lawyer shall also submit a certified copy of the judgment of conviction with registration materials to the professional licensing agency of every jurisdiction in which the lawyer seeks admission to practice, following entry of the judgment.

(b)     Determination of "Serious Crime." Upon being advised that a lawyer subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Court has been found guilty of any crime, Bar Counsel shall determine whether the crime constitutes a "serious crime" warranting immediate interim suspension. If the crime is a "serious crime," Bar Counsel may prepare an order for interim suspension and forward it to the Court and the respondent with proof of the finding of guilt. Bar Counsel shall in addition file formal charges against the respondent predicated upon the finding of guilt. On or before the date established for the entry of the order of interim suspension, the lawyer may assert any jurisdictional deficiency that establishes that the suspension may not properly be ordered, such as that the crime did not constitute a "serious crime" or that the lawyer is not the individual found guilty. If the crime is not a "serious crime," Bar Counsel shall process the matter in the same manner as any other information coming to the attention of the Board.

(c)     Definition of "Serious Crime.” A "serious crime" is any felony or any lesser crime that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, or any crime a necessary element of which, as determined by the statutory or common law definition of the crime, involves interference with the administration of justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud, deceit, bribery, extortion, misappropriation, theft, or an attempt, conspiracy or solicitation of another to commit a "serious crime."

(d)     Immediate Interim Suspension. The Court has exclusive power to place a lawyer on interim suspension.

(1)    Imposition. The Court may place a lawyer on interim suspension immediately upon proof that the lawyer has been found guilty of a serious crime, regardless of the pendency of any appeal. In the interest of justice, the Court may elect not to impose an interim suspension upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances, after affording Bar Counsel notice and an opportunity to be heard.

(2)    Termination. The Court has exclusive power to terminate an interim suspension. In the interest of justice, the Court may terminate an interim suspension at any time upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances, after affording Bar Counsel notice and an opportunity to be heard.

(e)     Conviction as Conclusive Evidence. For purposes of a hearing on formal charges filed as a result of a finding of guilt, a certified copy of a conviction constitutes conclusive evidence that the lawyer committed the crime, and the sole issue in any such hearing shall be the nature and extent of the discipline to be imposed.

(f)     Automatic Reinstatement from Interim Suspension upon Reversal of Finding of Guilt or Conviction. If a lawyer suspended solely under the provisions of Rule 23(d) demonstrates that the underlying finding of guilt or conviction has been reversed or vacated, the order for interim suspension shall be vacated and the lawyer placed on active status. The vacating of the interim suspension will not automatically terminate any formal proceeding then pending against the lawyer, the disposition of which shall be determined by the Grievance Commission panel and the Board on the basis of the available evidence other than the finding of guilt or conviction.

(g)     Notice to Clients and Others of Interim Suspension. An interim suspension under this rule shall constitute a suspension of the lawyer for the purpose of Rule 31.


Reporter’s Notes – June 2015

Rule 23(a) is similar to Model Rule 19(A) but retains the language of former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(d)(6) requiring the lawyer, not the court clerk, to properly notify Bar Counsel of that lawyer’s conviction of any crime. Rule 23(a) includes the concept of Model Rule 19(A) requiring the lawyer to also so notify the lawyer disciplinary agency of every state in which the lawyer is admitted, but uses the term “jurisdiction” so that the District of Columbia, Territories of the Unites States, and foreign countries must also be notified of the conviction. Rule 23(a) also adds new language requiring the lawyer to inform the professional licensing agency in every jurisdiction where the lawyer seeks admission to practice. Former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(d)(6) had no such requirements.

Rule 23(b) is similar to Model Rule 19(B) and its partial equivalent is former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(d). Rule 23(b) requires certain interim suspension action by Bar Counsel concerning a lawyer’s conviction of a “serious crime,” a term not used in former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(d)(1), refers to such action for a lawyer’s conviction of a crime that “demonstrates unfitness to practice law.”

Rule 23(c) is similar to Model Rule 19(C) and the committee determined that while analogous former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(d) is somewhat more expansive than the Model Rule, it ultimately concluded the Model Rules’ distinction between a serious crime and a non-serious crime is worthwhile. However, the committee was unable to reach consensus as to the definition of serious crime. As a result, two competing definitions—a broader and a narrower one—were submitted to the Court for approval. The Court adopted the broader definition in order to provide a greater level of immediate protection to the public.

Rule 23(d) is identical to Model Rule 19(D). Unlike the equivalent language from former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(d), Rule 23(d) provides that the Court shall immediately issue an interim suspension of the lawyer upon Bar Counsel’s completion of the certification of the lawyer’s conviction of a “serious crime.”

Rule 23(e) is identical to Model Rule 19(E), with similar language contained in former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(d)(2).

Rule 23(f) is identical to Model Rule 19(F) and has no significant variation from former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(d)(5).

Rule 23(g) is identical to Model Rule 19(G). The committee felt that its specific designation of the notification requirements of Rule 31 being required for the lawyer to undertake is an improvement on the silence of former Maine Bar Rule 7.3(i) on that issue.