August 16, 2022

Lawyer common sues Maine lawyer for ‘negligent misrepresentation’ of billing

Amy Fairfield helps make a position to prosecutors in April 2019 on the initially working day of Jay Mercier’s enchantment of his conviction for the murder of Rita St. Peter. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

Amy Fairfield, who was the heart of a Maine Watch investigation in 2019 about abnormally superior billing by her legislation organization, is becoming sued by state officials for misrepresenting the hrs legal professionals labored on situations to receive a larger reimbursement from the state.

Considering that January 2016, Fairfield & Associates was paid $6.8 million by the Maine Commission on Indigent Authorized Solutions, or MCILS, to stand for grownup and juvenile defendants accused of crimes who could not afford to pay for to employ the service of their own legal professional. Fairfield asked for to withdraw from an believed 200 circumstances in July, after the commission suspended her for failing to participate in an investigation of her law firm’s billing practices, The Maine Monitor formerly described.

A civil grievance submitted in Kennebec County Excellent Courtroom on Dec. 2 alleges her legislation firm Fairfield & Associates, dependent in Lyman, engaged in unjust enrichment and conversion of condition money.

The grievance also alleges Fairfield produced negligent misrepresentations to MCILS about the “time invested by non-attorneys” on cases and invoiced the point out for their do the job at the legal professional reimbursement fee of $60 an hour. Perform by paralegal and assist personnel is not protected by MCILS except if it is pre-authorised at the discretion of the government director, in accordance to the agency’s policies.

The condition alleges Fairfield unsuccessful to exhibit reasonable treatment about the precision of her regulation firm’s invoices, and knew, or should really have recognized, the invoices overstated the time basically spent by attorneys, who experienced labored on courtroom-appointed cases, according to the complaint.

“This is a result of a really thorough investigation by our director,” said Josh Tardy, chairman of the commission. “We have an obligation to keep lawyers accountable. We have an obligation to the defendants that the commission serves and Maine taxpayers as a whole.”

The state’s allegations are unfounded, mentioned Ted Dilworth of Dow’s Regulation Place of work in Norway on behalf of Fairfield. Dilworth explained it was a conflict for the legal professional general’s office environment to be searching for facts about felony defendants represented by Fairfield & Associates whilst the agency has open up scenarios towards the firm.

“We just assume this is the attorney general’s business office likely following her,” Dilworth stated.

Exclusive amid states, Maine has no general public defenders and rather contracts with private attorneys to deliver lawful counsel to people who cannot manage it. Point out lawmakers greater the spending plan and added new workers positions to make improvements to oversight by the company this yr on the heels of joint investigations by The Maine Observe and ProPublica, which showed the agency was financially mismanaged and worked with lawyers who had histories of experienced and felony misconduct.

Commissioner Mike Carey said the agency acquired issues and facts that required it to go after legal action towards Fairfield and her regulation business.

The commission voted 5-1 on Nov. 29 in assistance of the Office environment of the Maine Lawyer Standard submitting a civil lawsuit on its behalf. Bob Cummins was the just one commissioner to oppose the suggestion.

Fairfield was after the highest paid public defense lawyer in Maine. She billed the state $275,612 in fiscal year 2018 for do the job on court-appointed situations, which the previous government director of MCILS John Pelletier claimed he knew incorporated perform by a number of men and women at her legislation business, The Maine Monitor reported in November 2019.

Pelletier reportedly investigated Fairfield’s billing techniques in 2018, but he in the long run didn’t just take action from her.

“We absolutely cooperated at that time. We did all the things that John Pelletier asked,” Dilworth stated. “He observed that there was no problem.”

A govt oversight report afterwards found Pelletier did not go considerably enough to obtain out if attorneys experienced correctly billed the condition. Pelletier resigned at the conclusion of 2020 subsequent press and federal government scrutiny of his task.

This story was originally released by The Maine Keep an eye on. The Maine Keep an eye on is a area journalism item posted by The Maine Centre for General public Fascination Reporting, a nonpartisan and nonprofit civic information business.

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