A prominent Yarmouth lawyer and civic leader who once served as chairman of the Town Council and the Cumberland County Civic Center board of trustees has been suspended from practicing law in the state of Maine.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s suspension order alleges misconduct on the part of Warren M. Turner for failure to respond to clients, failure to return clients’ property, failure to appear at court and failure to respond to bar counsel for the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar.
“Warren M. Turner appears to have committed numerous violations of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, thereby serving as a threat to clients, the public and to the administration of justice,” Associate Law Court Justice Joseph J. Jabar wrote in his order dated Feb. 7.
“Those violations include Mr. Turner’s failure to respond to client inquiries, return client files and property, appear at some district court hearings, and relinquish his complete client files and office computer. The court finds that Mr. Turner’s actions constitute multiple violations of the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct,” Jabar concluded.
Turner could petition the court later to be reinstated, but that is unlikely given the severity of the charges, said J. Scott Davis, bar counsel for the Board of Overseers.
Davis said Turner’s legal problems began last October when the Board of Overseers petitioned the Law Court for an order suspending Turner from practicing law after Turner failed to renew his bar registration and complete legal education required to renew his license.
Davis said such a temporary suspension – called an administrative suspension – is more common and not as serious as the one handed down this month by the Law Court. The Overseers of the Bar was created in 1978 by the Law Court to govern the conduct of lawyers.
After he was suspended in October, the court placed Turner’s law practice into receivership. The court appointed Thomas Ainsworth, a South Portland-based attorney, to act as receiver.
Ainsworth said he has been actively working since October to obtain Turner’s client records – from deeds and wills to accounts receivable and corporate business records.
“I do not yet have all of the (client) files,” Ainsworth said. “They are being stored at various locations in the Yarmouth area. Some we have been able to get, others we have not.”
Since October, Turner has been ordered to appear before the Board of Overseers’ Grievance Commission to respond to three grievances. He did not respond or attend any sessions.
Ainsworth and Davis said their staff has had difficulty reaching Turner.
Attempts by a reporter to contact Turner on Monday night were unsuccessful. His home phone number is no longer in service, his cellphone number won’t accept messages because his mailbox is full, and he did not respond to an email asking for a comment.
Ainsworth said he has known Turner for most of his life. Both grew up in Yarmouth.
“There has been a wonderful outpouring of support for Warren because of his long record of service to the town,” Ainsworth said. “He’s a very bright, civic-minded person.”
Portland Press Herald story archives show that Turner has a bachelor’s degree from Colby College in Waterville and a law degree from Cornell University. He was admitted to the Maine bar in 1973.
He served on the Yarmouth Town Council from 1976-1982, from 1984-1990, and from 1998 to 2003. Turner resigned from the council in 2003 before his term was up, citing personal reasons.
In the late 1990s, Turner served as chairman of the Cumberland County Civic Center’s board of trustees.
One of his closest friends is Yarmouth Town Councilor Erv Bickford. The men served together on the council for several years.
Bickford said Turner always put the town first, working hard to promote affordable housing, education and a better quality of life for residents.
Turner even visited him last week at home, said Bickford, who has been ill and plans to retire from the council in June.
“I’m in Warren’s corner. I don’t think you could find anyone in Yarmouth who served the town better than he did,” Bickford said.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]