7.1 Disciplinary Proceedings Before the Commission and the Board
(a) Complaint. Any person may submit to the Board a signed, written complaint alleging misconduct by an attorney subject to these rules.
(b) Investigation. Bar Counsel shall investigate all complaints of attorney misconduct submitted in accordance with Rule 7.1(a). In addition, if the Board or Bar Counsel become aware of information or allegations, in a manner other than receipt of a complaint, involving an attorney which, if true, raise a good faith belief that an attorney's conduct may have violated the Code of Professional Responsibility, Bar Counsel may initiate an investigation under Rule 7.1(a) in the absence of a complaint under the circumstances. However, any such complaint alleging or involving misconduct by an attorney member of the Board or Grievance Commission, or by any attorney employed at the office of Bar Counsel, shall be forwarded directly to the Chair of the Board, or the Vice Chair of the Board, or the Chair of the Grievance Commission in those cases when the Chair and Vice Chair are not able, to act in place of Bar Counsel for conducting an investigation and subsequent disposition pursuant to this Rule or such other Court Rules and Board Regulations governing the Board and Grievance Commission in the processing of grievance complaints.
(c) Dismissal by Bar Counsel.
(1) Dismissal and Review. Bar Counsel shall dismiss any complaint if Bar Counsel concludes, with or without investigation, that the matter does not constitute misconduct subject to sanction under these rules. Bar Counsel shall notify the complainant and the attorney of the dismissal in writing. The notification shall briefly and generally state the reasons for dismissal and shall advise the complainant that, upon written request made within 14 days of receipt of the notification, the dismissal will be reviewed by a lay member of the Board or of the Grievance Commission. The reviewing lay person shall approve, disapprove, or modify the terms of the dismissal. Bar Counsel shall notify the complainant and the attorney in writing of the reviewing lay person's action, with a general statement of the reasons therefor and any further action to be taken by Bar Counsel under these rules. If Bar Counsel elects to investigate the matter and in so doing receives a written response from the involved attorney, Bar Counsel may provide that response to the complainant.
(2) Bar Counsel Files. Except as provided and authorized by Rule 7.3(k)(3), information contained in Bar Counsel Files shall not be reported in response to inquiries made to the Board as to the good standing or disciplinary record of any attorney and shall not be used in any subsequent proceedings before the Board or Grievance Commission, or the Court.
(d) Preliminary Grievance Panel Review.
(1) Bar Counsel Action.
(A) If a complaint is not dismissed pursuant to Rule 7.1(c)(1), Bar Counsel shall present the complaint and a recommended disposition to a panel of the Grievance Commission selected as provided in Rule 7(b)(2) for preliminary review pursuant to this subdivision (d). Any attorney who is the subject of the complaint shall be given a copy of the complaint and upon Bar Counsel's request, shall submit to Bar Counsel an informal response for consideration by the reviewing panel. Bar Counsel may submit the response to the complainant for reply. Bar Counsel shall recommend either dismissal of the complaint, dismissal of the complaint with a warning, or commencement of public disciplinary proceedings before a different panel of the Grievance Commission pursuant to Rule 7.1(e)(1)-(5). The attorney and complainant shall be notified of Bar Counsel's recommended disposition.
(B) The attorney may, within 14 days of receipt of notification of the recommended disposition, submit in writing a waiver of preliminary review and a demand that Bar Counsel commence public disciplinary proceedings. Bar Counsel shall thereupon prepare and present a formal petition for disciplinary action before a panel of the Grievance Commission pursuant to Rule 7.1(e)(1)-(5). The complainant shall be notified of Bar Counsel's action.
(2) Grievance Commission Panel Review. Preliminary review before a panel of the Grievance Commission shall not be open to the public and shall be confidential. Neither the complainant nor the attorney shall be present. The panel shall review the complaint, any response submitted by the attorney, any reply submitted by the complainant, the results of Bar Counsel's investigation, and Bar Counsel's recommended disposition.
(3) Same: Dismissal. If the reviewing panel does not find probable cause to believe that misconduct subject to sanction under these rules has occurred, the panel shall dismiss the complaint. Bar Counsel shall notify the complainant and the attorney of the dismissal in writing, briefly and generally stating the reasons for the dismissal. All complaints dismissed pursuant to this paragraph shall be retained on file by Bar Counsel on the terms and conditions provided by Rule 7.1(c)(2) for complaints dismissed by Bar Counsel.
(4) Same: Dismissal With a Warning.
(A) If the reviewing panel finds probable cause to believe that misconduct subject to sanction under these rules has occurred; that the misconduct is minor; that there is little or no injury to a client, the public, the legal system, or the profession; and that there is little likelihood of repetition by the attorney, the panel may direct Bar Counsel to dismiss the complaint with a warning. Bar Counsel shall deliver notice of the dismissal and the terms of the warning in writing personally or by mail to the attorney and shall notify the complainant of the fact that the complaint has been dismissed with a warning, briefly and generally stating the reasons for that disposition.
(B) Dismissal with a warning is not discipline. A complaint dismissed with a warning shall not be reported in response to inquiries made to the Board as to the good standing or disciplinary record of an attorney, nor need an attorney report or disclose the same in any inquiry made to or of such attorney with respect to the imposition of any disciplinary action. The fact that a previous complaint was dismissed with a warning may be used in subsequent preliminary panel reviews or public disciplinary proceedings only after a finding of misconduct in the subsequent matter, and only as evidence of prior misconduct bearing upon the gravity of the sanction to be imposed in the subsequent review or proceedings.
(C) A dismissal with a warning after preliminary review under this paragraph (4) may not be appealed to the Board by the attorney, the complainant, or Bar Counsel and is not subject to judicial review. The attorney may, within 14 days after receipt of notice of dismissal with a warning, demand in writing that Bar Counsel commence public disciplinary proceedings. The dismissal with warning shall thereupon be vacated, and Bar Counsel shall prepare and present a formal petition for disciplinary action before a different panel of the Grievance Commission pursuant to Rule 7.1(e)(1)-(5). The complainant shall be notified of Bar Counsel's action.
(5) Same: Probable Cause for Further Proceedings. If the reviewing panel finds probable cause to believe that misconduct subject to sanction under these rules has occurred for which a public reprimand should be issued or an information seeking suspension or disbarment should be filed, the panel shall direct Bar Counsel to prepare and present a formal petition for disciplinary action before a different panel of the Grievance Commission pursuant to Rule 7.1(e)(1)-(5). The complainant shall be notified of the reviewing panel's action.
(e) Public Disciplinary Proceedings Before a Grievance Commission Panel.
(1) Petition; Service and Answer. Bar Counsel shall commence public disciplinary proceedings by filing a petition for disciplinary action before a panel of the Grievance Commission selected as provided in Rule 7(b)(2). The petition shall set forth specific charges of alleged misconduct. A copy of the petition, together with a notice setting a time for answer that shall be not less than 20 days after service, shall be served by Bar Counsel upon the respondent attorney either by registered or certified mail, with return receipt requested, or by any method provided in Rule 4 of the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure. The respondent attorney shall file an answer within the stated time. In the event that the respondent attorney fails to file an answer, the facts set forth and the misconduct alleged in the petition shall be taken as admitted, but the respondent attorney may be heard on the question of sanctions.
(A) The disciplinary panel shall hold a hearing on the petition. The Board shall serve notice of the time and place of hearing on the respondent attorney and the complainant either by regular mail or by registered or certified mail, with return receipt requested, at least 15 days in advance of the date thereof.
(B) The hearing shall be open to the public, except that to protect the interests of a complainant, witness, third party or respondent attorney, the panel may, upon application and for good cause shown, issue a protective order prohibiting the disclosure of specific information otherwise privileged or confidential and direct that the proceedings be conducted so as to implement that order. The deliberations of the panel following any hearing under this subdivision shall not be open to the public. The decision of the panel following any hearing under this subdivision shall be made available to the public.
(C) At the hearing, Bar Counsel shall present such evidence as Bar Counsel deems appropriate and may cross-examine witnesses. The respondent attorney may be represented by counsel, may cross-examine witnesses, and may present evidence. Evidence shall be admitted if it is the kind of evidence upon which reasonable persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs. The panel may exclude irrelevant or unduly repetitious evidence. The Board shall cause all proceedings before the panel to be stenographically or electronically recorded in a form that will readily permit transcription.
(D) The Chair of the Panel of the Grievance Commission conducting the hearing shall preside and have the power to control the course of proceedings and regulate the conduct of those individuals appearing as counsel, parties, or witnesses. The failure of an attorney participating in such a hearing as a party, counsel for a party, or as a witness to obey an order of the Chair shall constitute a violation of Maine Bar Rule 3.2(f), and if committed by a respondent attorney may be duly considered by the panel in its disposition of the matter before it.
(E) Subject to approval by the Chair of the Panel, all of the hearing formalities of this Rule may be waived by a signed, stipulated agreement of the parties. When such a waiver includes or incorporates the parties’ submission of an agreed proposed sanction order, that waiver shall also contain the respondent attorney’s signed waiver of the right to file a petition for review under Rule 7.2.(a).
(3) Grievance Commission Panel Determination.
(A) Dismissal. The disciplinary panel shall dismiss the petition if it finds, on the evidence and arguments presented, that no misconduct subject to sanction under these rules occurred.
(B) Dismissal With A Warning. If the disciplinary panel finds that misconduct subject to sanction under these rules has occurred; that the misconduct is minor; that there is little or no injury to a client, the public, the legal system, or the profession; and that there is little likelihood of repetition by the attorney, the panel may dismiss the complaint with a warning having the effect and consequences provided in Rule 7.1(d)(4)(B). The attorney may obtain review by the Board of any objection to the warning or its terms as provided in Rule 7.1(e)(5).
(C) Public Reprimand or Information. If the disciplinary panel finds that misconduct subject to sanction under these rules has occurred and that none of the conditions set forth in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph is present, the panel shall either issue a public reprimand to the respondent attorney or, upon a finding of probable cause for suspension or disbarment, shall direct Bar Counsel to commence an attorney discipline action by filing an information pursuant to Rule 7.2(b). In determining the appropriate sanction, the panel shall consider the following factors among others: (i) whether the attorney has violated a duty owed to a client, to the public, to the legal system, or to the profession; (ii) whether the attorney acted intentionally, knowingly, or negligently; (iii) the amount of actual or potential injury caused by the attorney's misconduct; and (iv) the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors. In the event that the panel determines that any proceedings should be concluded by public reprimand, it shall arrange through Bar Counsel for delivery of the reprimand to the respondent attorney in person or otherwise. The respondent attorney may petition the Court for review of the reprimand as provided in Rule 7.2(a).
(4) Report of Findings and Actions. The disciplinary panel shall report promptly to the Board its findings, determinations and actions, together with a record of the proceedings before it. A copy of the report shall be forwarded to the respondent attorney, and counsel, if any.
(5) Objections to the Panel Report.
(A) By Respondent Attorney. Within 21 days after delivery of notice of a dismissal of a complaint with a warning, the respondent attorney may file with the Board an objection to the warning or its terms, giving notice to Bar Counsel.
(B) By Bar Counsel. Within 21 days of receipt of the report of the disciplinary panel, Bar Counsel may file with the Board an objection to the findings and recommendations of the report, giving notice to the respondent attorney.
(C) Procedure Upon Objections. The Board shall set dates for submission of oral arguments, unless waived, by Bar Counsel and the respondent attorney, and shall thereupon proceed, through a panel of at least three members of the Board (no one of whom shall have been a member of a Grievance Commission reviewing or disciplinary panel on the matter), to be designated by the Board or by the Chair or Vice Chair, to determine the issue. The Board panel may deny the objection; order dismissal with any warning expunged; remand the matter to the disciplinary panel for further consideration; dismiss the complaint with a warning having the effect provided in Rule 7.1(e)(3)(B); enter a public reprimand having the effect provided in Rule 7.1(e)(3)(C); or, upon a finding of probable cause for suspension or disbarment, direct Bar Counsel to commence an attorney discipline action by filing an information pursuant to Rule 7.2(b). If the Board denies the objection, that action shall be final as to the party presenting it.