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RULE 21. Sanctions
(a) Grounds for Discipline. It shall be a ground for discipline for a lawyer to:
(1) violate or attempt to violate these Rules, the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, or any other rules of this jurisdiction regarding professional conduct of lawyers;
(2) engage in conduct violating applicable rules of professional conduct of another jurisdiction;
(3) willfully violate a valid order of the Court, a Single Justice, the Board, or a Grievance Commission panel imposing discipline, willfully fail to comply with a subpoena validly issued under these Rules, or knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand from a disciplinary authority, except that this rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by applicable rules relating to confidentiality.
(b) Types of Sanctions. Misconduct shall be grounds for one or more of the following sanctions:
(1) Admonition, a public non-disciplinary sanction, may be imposed by the Court, a Single Justice, or a Grievance Commission panel after hearing pursuant to Rule 13(e) and (g). Admonitions are to be imposed only in cases of minor misconduct, when there is little or no injury to a client, the public, the legal system, or the profession, and when there is little likelihood of repetition by the lawyer.
(2) Disbarment, a public disciplinary sanction, may be imposed only by the Court or a Single Justice pursuant to Rule 13(f) and (g).
(3) Dismissal with a warning, a private non-disciplinary sanction, may be imposed by a Grievance Commission panel after a preliminary review pursuant to Rule 13(d). Dismissals with a warning are to be imposed only in cases of minor misconduct, when there is little or no injury to a client, the public, the legal system, or the profession, and when there is little likelihood of repetition by the lawyer.
(4) Probation, a public disciplinary sanction, may be imposed by a Single Justice, the Court, or a Grievance Commission panel pursuant to Rule 13(e) or (g). Probation durations shall be for a period not in excess of two years; provided, however, that probation may be renewed for an additional two-year period by consent or after a hearing to determine if there is a continued need for supervision. The conditions of probation shall be stated in writing. Probation shall be used only in cases where there is little likelihood that the respondent will harm the public during the period of rehabilitation and the conditions of probation can be adequately supervised. Probation shall be terminated upon the filing of an affidavit by respondent showing compliance with the conditions and an affidavit by the probation monitor stating that probation is no longer necessary and summarizing the basis for that statement. A Single Justice or the Court may impose other limitations on the nature or extent of the respondent's future practice.
(5) Reprimand, a public disciplinary sanction, may be imposed by a Single Justice, the Court, or a Grievance Commission panel pursuant to Rule 13(e) or (g).
(6) Suspension, a public disciplinary sanction, may be imposed only by a Single Justice or the Court pursuant to Rule 13(g). Suspension durations shall be for an appropriate fixed period of time not in excess of three years.
Sanctions issued under this rule shall be provided to tribunals in any subsequent proceedings in which the respondent has been found to have committed misconduct as evidence of prior misconduct bearing upon the issue of the proper sanction to be imposed in the subsequent proceeding.
(c) Factors to be Considered in Imposing Sanctions. In imposing a sanction after a finding of lawyer misconduct, the Single Justice, the Court, or the Grievance Commission panel shall consider the following factors, as enumerated in the ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions:
(1) whether the lawyer has violated a duty owed to a client, to the public, to the legal system, or to the profession;
(2) whether the lawyer acted intentionally, knowingly, or negligently;
(3) the amount of the actual or potential injury caused by the lawyer's misconduct; and
(4) the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.
(d) Public Nature of Sanctions Disposition of lawyer discipline shall be public in cases before a Single Justice, the Court, or a Grievance Commission panel. The Single Justice, the Court, or the Grievance Commission panel shall issue a written opinion setting forth its justification for imposing the sanction in that particular case.
Reporter’s Notes – June 2015
Rule 21(a) is based on Model Rule 9(A) and former Maine Bar Rule 2(c). Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1(b) and 8.4(a) also contain similar provisions. The committee added language to Rule 21(a) such that a lawyer’s violation of an order of the Board or Grievance Commission is prohibited. Model Rule 9(A) limits such conduct to orders of the Court.
Rule 21(b) is partially based on Model Rule 10(A) and lists the potential grounds of discipline. The Rule adopts an additional sanction option–dismissal with a warning–from Maine Bar Rule 7.1(d)(4) and 7.1(e)(3(B). Rule 21(b)(4) incorporates the sanction option of probation from Model Rule 10(A)(3), a choice not available under the former Maine Bar Rules. The committee concluded that increasing the tools available to Bar Counsel, the Grievance Commission, and the Court will allow for those entities to better tailor a sanction to an attorney’s misconduct. The committee adopted the language of both Model Rule 10(A)(1)(2) and former Maine Bar Rule 7.2(b)(5) such that the serious sanctions of suspension and disbarment may be imposed only by the Court.
Rule 21(c) is based on former Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(3)(C) but also incorporates language from Model Rule 10(C) that specifically references the ABA’s Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions.
Rule 21(d) specifically follows the script from Model Rule 10(D) as to the public nature of all disciplinary decisions with its equivalent section being found in former Maine Bar Rules 7.1(e)(2)(B) and (4), and 7.3(k)(1).