A Pittston attorney’s license has been suspended after the state Board of Overseers of the Bar investigated allegations that he made sexual advances toward female clients.

Clarence H. Spurling

Clarence H. Spurling received the interim suspension of his license to practice law effective 5 p.m. Wednesday. The suspension order was issued by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

This is not the first time Spurling’s behavior has been called into question. He was reprimanded over similar sexual misconduct and harassment claims decades ago and initially denied entry by the Maine State Bar Association because of that history.

In its petition for immediate suspension, the Maine State Bar Association said Spurling’s violations included conflict of interest, disciplinary matters, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and sexual harassment.

The order came following a testimonial hearing on Sept. 2 at which Spurling, who operates Spurling Law Offices in Gardiner, was represented by Mark Franco and the client — referred to by the initials J.K. — was represented by Assistant Bar Counsel Justin Andrus.

“The court finds that with his client J.K., (Spurling) engaged in several instances of touching of her leg of a sexual nature, culminating with unwelcome grasping and touching of her body at the last in-person conference,” the court’s order states. “Defendant also suggested to J.K. that he would like a physical relationship to go further, particularly when he said he would like ‘the whole enchilada’ from her. The touching and sexual innuendo were unwelcome to J.K. although she did not tell the Defendant to stop by word or deed. Rather, she was distressed and discharged him almost immediately thereafter and hired another lawyer.”

The order also found that Spurling “made unwelcome sexual advances to another client, and she was “substantially incapacitated during the encounter.” The order refers to the other client by the initials K.W. 

Those acts constituted violations of unwelcome sexual touching and sexual relations with a client, the order states.

“While (Spurling) immediately admitted he should not have touched J.K., and ‘owned’ his responsibility at the hearing, the court is not re-assured,” the order states. “In the same testimony in which he put the responsibility squarely on his shoulders, he also testified that he should not have let himself be ‘handled’ or ‘manipulated’ by J.K. The court does not agree that she ‘handled’ or ‘manipulated’ him, and the testimony gives the court pause as to whether (Spurling) actually understands the problem, including the power imbalance and vulnerability of the client.”

The order found that Spurling “immediately recognized his actions were inappropriate and disappointing,” yet later “decided to go drinking with another client and try to start a sexual relationship,” which “makes it clear to this court that he does not recognize the problem.”

“His insight and honesty are further called into question by the fact that he denied to Bar Counsel that K.W. was a client, despite the fact that she had come to him in his professional capacity and paid the retainer,” the order states.

The next step in the case will be for the Office of the Bar to file an official charging document with the court.

Aria Eee, executive director of the Board of Overseers of the Bar, said the bar rules offer a range of potential resolutions, but the court will decide the outcome.

Franco, who represents Spurling, did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.

The court’s order of immediate interim suspension states that Spurling must vacate his law offices, including a home office, and stop practicing law until further notice. The order further states he is to cease operations of any website or social media accounts and any other form of advertising of his legal services during the period of his suspension.

Spurling ran unsuccessfully for county probate judge as a Libertarian in a three-way race in 2016.

The suspension comes decades after Spurling faced similar misconduct charges. Before he became an attorney, Spurling was discharged from his position as a probation-parole officer with the Maine Department of Corrections in Augusta in 1984 for misconduct involving sexual harassment of female employees at his workplace and involving physical contact between him and the female employees.

That information became public when Spurling sought admission to the Bar of the state of Maine after passing the state bar exam in February 1990.

After leaving the Department of Corrections, Spurling moved to Los Angeles and in 1987 graduated second in his class of 35 from Southwestern University Law School. He was admitted to the bar in California in 1989. He worked first as a prosecutor and later entered private practice.

His admission to the Maine bar nearly three decades ago was initially denied by the Board of Overseers and by former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Morton Brody on the grounds that he failed to meet the burden of satisfying the court that “he possessed the good moral character required for admission,” and the details of his discharge were included in the record.

Spurling appealed on several grounds, including that the court relied on documents related to his dismissal that had not been properly introduced to reach its decision.

In the decision reversing the denial, Justice Robert Clifford ruled that Spurling’s attitudes had changed. He noted that Spurling had admitted that the sexual harassment was wrong and he had an exemplary record since 1984.

 

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