Attorney general sues Maine lawyer for ‘negligent misrepresentation’ of billing

Attorney general sues Maine lawyer for ‘negligent misrepresentation’ of billing

Amy Fairfield helps make a issue to prosecutors in April 2019 on the to start with day of Jay Mercier’s attractiveness of his conviction for the murder of Rita St. Peter. David Leaming/Early morning Sentinel

Amy Fairfield, who was the centre of a Maine Keep track of investigation in 2019 about abnormally superior billing by her law company, is staying sued by point out officials for misrepresenting the hours lawyers labored on circumstances to get paid a bigger reimbursement from the condition.

Considering that January 2016, Fairfield & Associates was paid $6.8 million by the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Products and services, or MCILS, to signify grownup and juvenile defendants accused of crimes who couldn’t find the money for to retain the services of their individual legal professional. Fairfield asked for to withdraw from an believed 200 conditions in July, after the fee suspended her for failing to participate in an investigation of her regulation firm’s billing practices, The Maine Monitor formerly reported.

A civil grievance filed in Kennebec County Superior Court docket on Dec. 2 alleges her legislation agency Fairfield & Associates, based mostly in Lyman, engaged in unjust enrichment and conversion of condition resources.

The grievance also alleges Fairfield created negligent misrepresentations to MCILS about the “time expended by non-attorneys” on instances and invoiced the state for their work at the lawyer reimbursement amount of $60 an hour. Work by paralegal and help team is not covered by MCILS unless it is pre-authorised at the discretion of the government director, in accordance to the agency’s procedures.

The state alleges Fairfield failed to display acceptable care about the accuracy of her legislation firm’s invoices, and realized, or really should have recognized, the invoices overstated the time really used by lawyers, who experienced labored on court-appointed circumstances, according to the grievance.

“This is a end result of a incredibly complete investigation by our director,” explained Josh Tardy, chairman of the fee. “We have an obligation to hold attorneys accountable. We have an obligation to the defendants that the commission serves and Maine taxpayers as a complete.”

The state’s allegations are unfounded, reported Ted Dilworth of Dow’s Law Office environment in Norway on behalf of Fairfield. Dilworth claimed it was a conflict for the legal professional general’s business to be trying to get data about felony defendants represented by Fairfield & Associates when the company has open up cases from the business.

“We just feel this is the legal professional general’s place of work heading soon after her,” Dilworth mentioned.

Distinctive among states, Maine has no public defenders and as a substitute contracts with private attorneys to provide lawful counsel to individuals who can’t pay for it. State lawmakers greater the funds and added new personnel positions to strengthen oversight by the agency this 12 months on the heels of joint investigations by The Maine Keep track of and ProPublica, which showed the agency was financially mismanaged and worked with attorneys who had histories of skilled and felony misconduct.

Commissioner Mike Carey said the company received complaints and details that demanded it to pursue authorized motion towards Fairfield and her law firm.

The commission voted 5-1 on Nov. 29 in guidance of the Business office of the Maine Attorney General filing a civil lawsuit on its behalf. Bob Cummins was the one commissioner to oppose the advice.

Fairfield was after the best paid general public defense attorney in Maine. She billed the state $275,612 in fiscal calendar year 2018 for operate on courtroom-appointed conditions, which the former govt director of MCILS John Pelletier reported he understood involved do the job by a number of persons at her legislation business, The Maine Monitor reported in November 2019.

Pelletier reportedly investigated Fairfield’s billing tactics in 2018, but he ultimately didn’t consider action versus her.

“We absolutely cooperated at that time. We did anything that John Pelletier requested,” Dilworth said. “He uncovered that there was no problem.”

A federal government oversight report afterwards uncovered Pelletier did not go far enough to come across out if lawyers had appropriately billed the point out. Pelletier resigned at the conclusion of 2020 subsequent press and govt scrutiny of his work.

This tale was originally printed by The Maine Check. The Maine Check is a community journalism products published by The Maine Center for Public Fascination Reporting, a nonpartisan and nonprofit civic information business.

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