Bar News - April 13, 2012
Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee
Witkus, Lanea A. advs. Richard Maville
Witkus, Lanea A. advs. Hugh M. Tamoney
PUBLIC CENSURE AND EXTENSION OF STAYED SUSPENSION SUMMARY
On November 9, 2011, the Professional Conduct Committee issued the Public Censure and extension of stayed suspension in the above-captioned matters, which became final on March 7, 2012.
Lanea A. Witkus, Esquire, was issued a six month suspension, with four months stayed, on March 1, 2010, in the matter of Witkus, Lanea A. advs. Hugh M. Tamoney # 06-029, hereinafter "Tamoney case," for violations of N.H. Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3(a)(1): Candor to the Tribunal; 3.4(d): Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel, and 8.4(a): Misconduct, subject to certain conditions. One such condition was that there be no further violations for a period of two years. If a grievance were filed but remained unresolved during the two year period, the stay of the suspension would be extended until such time as the grievance was resolved. On September 24, 2009, prior to the imposition of the sanction in the Tamoney case, a grievance was filed, and later docketed as Witkus, Lanea A. advs. Richard Maville # 09-049, hereinafter "Maville case." Since the issuance of the Tamoney Order, no new grievances have been filed.
Ms. Witkus has been a member of the New Hampshire Bar since 1977. At all times material to this proceeding, Ms. Witkus operated her law office as Witkus Law Office, PLLC, 14 Ash Street, Newport, New Hampshire. On September 24, 2009, Richard Maville filed a grievance with the Attorney Discipline Office ("ADO"), claming that Ms. Witkus had violated the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct in connection with her representation of Mr. Mavilleís ex-wife in a highly contested divorce proceeding lasting over three years. The Case Summary of the matter from the Claremont Family Division indicated that the parties and Court made over 400 entries in the case. Many of the motions filed sought expedited relief and were filed in ex parte form. Ms. Witkus breached her duty to obey the rules of the tribunal when she filed an ex parte motion when there were no emergency circumstances that would result in irreparable harm or injury to her client, the children or the marital estate. In response to the Motion, the Court (Luneau, MM.) issued an Order dated October 27, 2009. In the Order, the Court observed that "[there] is no emergency apparent," and admonished both parties stating:
The Court is concerned that in this case, the Ex Parte procedure has not been used for its proper purpose, which is to address emergencies. In the future, no action will be taken on Ex Parte requests which do not conform to Family Division Rule 2.9...
The court also noted that "delivery of Ex Parte pleadings has been an issue for both parties" and that "the Court may wait to issue a ruling until it has proof of delivery of all Ex Parte pleadings and attachments to the other party."
The Professional Conduct Committee found that Ms. Witkus violated her duty to the legal system. As an officer of the court, Ms. Witkus must always operate within the bounds of the law. Ms. Witkusís mental state was one of negligence. Her conduct caused unnecessary litigation and was an abuse of the legal process. After consideration of the relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the Committee found that it did not warrant a departure from the baseline sanction.
The Committee imposed a Public Censure and extended the stayed suspension in the Tamoney case through December 31, 2013, with a further provision that the mentorship requirements be extended through the same period. Further conditions also apply.
Pursuant to the partiesí Stipulation, Ms. Witkus was assessed all costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of this matter. The file and complete Order is available for inspection at the Attorney Discipline Office, 4 Chenell Drive, Suite 102, Concord, NH. The Public Censure is posted at www.nhattyreg.org.
March 30, 2012