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December 6, 2018

Brunswick lawyer disbarred over misuse of funds totaling $287K

Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar announced Wednesday that Brunswick lawyer James Whittemore will not be allowed to practice law for 10 years, citing serious professional and ethical violations that include allegations he has misused approximately $287,000 of client funds.

The Times Record reported by Whittemore, 69, also faces criminal charges in Cumberland County. He was indicted on two counts of theft by misapplication of property and one count of theft by unauthorized taking, the Brunswick newspaper reported, adding that Whittemore pleaded not guilty to those charges.

"In each instance, Mr. Whittemore's conduct demonstrated violations of duties owed directly to his clients," Superior Court Justice Nancy D. Mills wrote in her Nov. 30 decision. "In addition, Mr. Whittemore violated duties that he owed to the court, to the public, and to his profession. … As noted above, in each of the five counts, there was serious and intentional misconduct that exacted both financial and emotional injury to vulnerable clients."

According to court documents, Whittemore:

  • Mishandled and is suspected of converting "approximately $151,981.06 derived from the assets" of a trust in "a matter then pending in the Cumberland County Probate Court."
  • Improperly received and converted $100,000 in a settlement of two wrongful death claims, which had been made directly payable to his client trust account instead of the client and her son.
  • Misappropriated $15,000 sent by a donor to the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust to be held in escrow for an easement purchase.
  • Accepted $18,790 from a client he was representing in a "right-of-way easement issue … without performing the requisite legal work."
  • Accepted a $1,500 retainer from a client and "performed minimal legal services for [the client] and then converted the remaining advanced fee for his own use."

Court documents indicate the complainants have filed or will be filing for reimbursement through the Lawyer's Fund for Client Protection.

The Times Record reported that Whittemore's lawyer declined comment on the case on Wednesday.

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