Friday, April 18, 2014
A Waterville attorney faces a six-month suspension from law practice for violating rules of professional conduct in litigation involving a divorce in Waterville District Court.
The suspension, ordered last week by a state Supreme Court justice, is the latest in a series of problems Charles T. “Tom” Ferris has encountered over the past year.
His difficulties include a charge in federal court of failure to repay a federal education loan of almost $107,000 and a lawsuit pending against him in state court by a former client dissatisfied with his handling of her motor vehicle accident case.
Ferris, who has been practicing civil and criminal law in Waterville for more than 20 years, is to begin serving the suspension March 3.
The order by Supreme Court Associate Justice Donald Alexander follows a Jan. 21 hearing as well as a previous, failed attempt to resolve complaints against Ferris by the issuance of a public reprimand.
“Tom has admitted he clearly had made some mistakes in terms of the rules that govern subpoenas,” said Peter DeTroy, the attorney who represented Ferris in the grievance proceedings. DeTroy said Ferris’s mistakes were “unfortunate and inadvertent,” and he and his client are discussing how to react to the order and in particular the length of the suspension. “We are disappointed with what was decided by way of the suspension.” He said they could ask the court to reconsider.
“Family law cases are the most challenging for lawyers,” DeTroy said. “That was a case, for a number of reasons, where he just sort of got knocked off balance and couldn’t get back on balance. He’s basically a good, solid lawyer who basically got in a blind spot.”
DeTroy also said that he anticipated Ferris’s law partners would step up to handle his cases during the suspension.
Ferris has recently handled a particularly high profile criminal case in Kennebec County Superior Court where he represented Mark P. Murphy, who was convicted of elevated aggravated assault for attacking a mental health worker while he was a patient at Riverview Psychiatric Center.
In the civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bangor, documents show that U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen signed off on a consent judgment March 14, ordering Ferris to pay to the government almost $107,000 for the education loan taken out in September 2008, plus almost $39,000 in interest, in monthly installments. The judgment was ordered to be secured with liens on any real estate or personal property he owns.
In the state court case pending in Kennebec County, Angela Larrabee of Oakland accuses Ferris of failing to pursue her claim against the City of Waterville stemming from injuries she says she suffered in an Aug. 3, 2007, collision with a city-owned garbage truck at 1st Rangeway and Kennedy Memorial Drive.
Larrabee maintains Ferris failed to send a notice of claim to the city within the required 180 days after the crash.
The lawsuit says any claim she has is now extinguished as a result and that he was negligent and failed to provide competent representation. Larrabbee, through her attorneys, Daniel Kagan and Timothy Kenlan, seeks compensatory damages.
DeTroy, who represents Ferris in that case as well, said Tuesday that the issues are mostly undisputed, and they are hoping to resolve the case in mediation.
The divorce case that resulted in the suspension began in late 2010 when Ferris represented a cousin identified in Alexander’s order as Mr. B.
As part of it, Ferris sent multiple subpoenas to U.S. Cellular for records of messages of his client’s estranged wife, and allowed his client to handle some of them.
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