PORTLAND, Maine — The board that oversees lawyers has scheduled a hearing for later this month on a pair of complaints against a Bowdoinham attorney accused of misconduct and conflicts of interest.
The hearing before the grievance commission of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar concerning Andrews Campbell is scheduled for April 28 and 29 in Cumberland County Superior Court.
One complaint alleges that Campbell failed to properly protect the interest of an elderly client and that he engaged in multiple conflicts of interest that included drafting a will for the woman that made him a beneficiary.
The other complaint alleges that the Bowdoinham attorney represented one person in a criminal case while representing a couple involved in an adversarial financial dealing with the first client.
Campbell has denied any misconduct in both cases. His attorney, Justin Andrus, said Wednesday that in both cases Campbell was following the directions of long-standing clients.
In the first case, Catherine Gero of Pittston filed a complaint in September 2012 with the board of overseers concerning Campbell’s representation of Mildred MacComb of Pittston. Gero was a niece of MacComb and had been named a beneficiary in one of MacComb’s prior wills.
A board grievance panel ruled in November 2013 that there was probable cause to believe that Campbell engaged in misconduct that could result in disciplinary actions. That finding of probable cause sets the stage for the hearing later this month before another panel of the bar that will be made up of lawyers and one member of the public.
The first panel concluded that instead of protecting MacComb’s interests, Campbell placed her property and finances at risk. Campbell allegedly drafted a will in 2005 that made him a beneficiary, according to the complaint.
At about that same time, Campbell allowed a former client and registered sex offender to meet and move in with MacComb. Campbell then drafted paperwork to make it possible for the former client to have a life estate on MacComb’s residence, according to the petition.
Campbell drafted a new will for MacComb in April 2006 and again designated himself as a beneficiary.
In October 2006, MacComb discharged Campbell as her lawyer. Despite that action, he drafted a new will that the board stated she purportedly executed in November 2007. Just prior to signing that will, a doctor had found that MacComb lacked the capacity to make decisions on her behalf, the petition states.
Between then and MacComb’s death at the age of 82 in November 2010, Campbell gave written permission for a harvest timber company to cut trees on property in which MacComb had a financial interest. MacComb never received money for the timber harvesting, with all $50,000 paid going to someone else who had the power of attorney over her finances.
“It is clear that his conduct throughout the representation of Mildred MacComb was fraught with conflicts, competing interests and neglect/lack of due diligence,” the board stated.
In the final will, MacComb left 2 acres to Campbell and the life estate to the former client of Campbell.
Andrus said witnesses will testify at the hearing that while MacComb was eccentric, she was competent up until her death. He said that she received advice from a second attorney in regard to the transfer of land to Campbell and that the transaction occurred before her death. Campbell’s attorney said it was clearly MacComb’s wish that Campbell have the land.
Campbell had no role in either receiving or distributing money from the cutting of timber on MacComb’s land, Andrus said.
In the second complaint, a former client that Campbell represented in a criminal case accused the lawyer of misconduct in handling his case.
Matthew Fleury claimed that in 2006, while Campbell represented him in a criminal case, he also drafted a $12,000 promissory note on behalf of two other clients in an adversarial matter.
Shortly after that financial transaction, Campbell helped Fleury file paperwork with the court that maintained that Fleury was indigent.
Andrus said Fleury and the couple both had requested the loan paperwork be prepared by Campbell. He said the transaction was not an adversarial one. Campbell filed paperwork with the court stating that Fleury had retained him but no longer had money to his knowledge and qualified for a court-appointed attorney, according to Andrus.
The process for hearing grievances against attorneys is for one panel of attorneys to review allegations and then make a recommendation to another board on whether there is probable cause to proceed with a disciplinary hearing.
An attorney can appeal any disciplinary action to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Campbell was admitted to the Maine bar in 1972, but was suspended and then disbarred from practice from 1987 through 1999 after being convicted in 1987 in U.S. District Court of possessing with intent to distribute marijuana.