On Thursday, July 24, 2023, the Maine Grievance Commission reprimanded attorney Vanessa A. Bartlett for lack of competence and diligence in a client’s divorce matter.
The case is entitled “Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Vanessa A. Bartlett, Esq.,” and was brought by the Grievance Commission, Case no. GCF#22-323.
The charges cited Bartlett’s violation of Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (diligence), 8.1(b) (failure to respond to disciplinary authority, 8.4(a) (misconduct), and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
The rules of professional conduct can be found here.
Bartlett represented the husband as the opposing party in a divorce case where the court issued a judgment to divide a 401(k) account between the husband and wife. The wife, who is the one who filed a grievance complaint against Bartlett, alleged that the latter failed to respond to inquiries from the complainant’s counsel following the judgment. Barlett reportedly failed to communicate effectively, even after her client’s death. However, the complainant discovered that the funds had been distributed weeks earlier to a third party, not to her, as the beneficiary.
The filing states:
The funds were sent directly to the third party and were not put into Attorney Bartlett’s trust account. Attorney Bartlett did not alert Complainant’s counsel that the funds had been distributed or their location. Ultimately, Complainant’s counsel was able to secure the funds through her own efforts.”
According to the filing, Bartlett failed to provide a substantive reply to the complaint which resulted in the default admission of the allegations against her.
For this reason, a panel of the Grievance Commission found probable cause to believe that Bartlett failed to adequately discharge her duties, resulting in prejudice to the administration of justice and harm to a party, a sanctionable conduct under the Maine Bar Rules.
The involved parties agreed to resolve the disciplinary issue by imposing a reprimand on Bartlett.
Accordingly, the Panel, concluded that a reprimand is a satisfactory sanction for Bartlett’s misconduct, accepted the parties’ agreement, and imposed a reprimand on Bartlett.
In addition, the Panel requires Attorney Bartlett to complete two continuing education credits in practice management subjects within six months. The courses must be approved in advance by the Office of Bar Counsel. Failure to complete the continuing education may result in further action by the office of Bar Counsel.
According to her LinkedIn page, Ms. Vanessa A. Bartlett attended the University of Maine School of Law, graduating in 1998. She is listed as the owner and private attorney at the Law Offices of Vanessa A. Bartlett. Bartlett has been admitted to practice in Maine in 1999.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.