WATERVILLE — A Waterville lawyer has been temporarily suspended from practicing law after he mishandled a divorce case, which prevented his client from filing an appeal.
Matthew E. Clark, a lawyer at Weeks&Hutchins on Park Place, has been suspended for three months effective Thursday, according to a press release from the Board of Overseers of the Bar.
Clark in 2011 was awarded the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce Rising Star award, which is given annually to someone under the age of 40 who illustrates business success, community involvement and leadership. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
According to a decision issued Monday by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Clark violated the state’s rules of professional conduct related to a divorce case Clark handled in 2011-2012 on behalf of client Gerald Donahue.
Donahue said that Clark failed to regularly communicate with him, charged an excessive fee, acted dishonestly toward him and failed to properly represent him.
Clark also wrongfully advised Donahue of his rights and then refused to assist him with an appeal of the judgment, according to the court decision. Clark admitted to the court that he failed to communicate in a timely manner with his client, improperly advised him of his appeal rights and that he failed to assist Donahue after a decision had been made, according to the court decision.
Because of Clark’s actions, Donahue was ultimately barred from filing an appeal in the divorce case, according to the court.
In July, Clark failed to appear at a hearing in which the court determined that the complaint would go to trial. He also didn’t respond to a complaint against him filed by the attorney who took over Donahue’s divorce case. According to bar rules, a lawyer must provide representation according to a contract with a client or until all services related to the matter are resolved.
“Attorney Clark’s multiple violations of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct are serious and the court must consider an appropriate sanction,” according to the court decision. “The Court is mindful that the primary purpose of such discipline is not punishment, but rather protection of the public.”
Clark is a graduate of Erskine Academy in South China and Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., according to published reports.
He graduated in 2006 from the University of Maine School of Law and was first admitted to the bar in October 2006, according to the board. He was employed at Weeks & Hutchins for five or six years, according to Wally Buschmann, an attorney at the firm.
Buschmann said Clark has been on extended medical leave since October and the firm has not had contact with him. He said that although he was not familiar with Donahue’s case, he wasn’t aware of any other serious complaints against Clark.
During the suspension, Clark is prohibited from advising, consulting or meeting with any of his clients. Upon resuming practice he must submit to monitoring by the board, according to the court decision.
Rachel Ohm— 612-2368 firstname.lastname@example.org