Legal Ethics

Lawyer accused of sexting appointed client gets interim suspension

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A Maine lawyer accused of sexting a client he was appointed to represent in several criminal cases has received an interim suspension while a disciplinary case is pending against him.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s top court, imposed the interim suspension on South Portland lawyer Paul Letourneau in a July 27 order, the Portland Press Herald and the Legal Profession Blog report.

Hjelm cited “undisputed” information that Letourneau had sent “unwanted text messages, photographs and video images of a graphically sexual nature” to the client. The client sought advice from a different lawyer, who filed a complaint with legal disciplinary authorities.

Letourneau had argued an interim suspension was unnecessary because he had arranged for psychological counseling, was working with the Maine Assistance Program and had withdrawn his name from the roster of lawyers taking court appointments.

Hjelm said those efforts are “commendable” but the risks to the public and clients persist because his counseling has not yet begun. Hjelm also said Letourneau didn’t make rehabilitation arrangements until he learned of disciplinary proceedings.

Letourneau’s lawyer, Justin Andrus, tells the ABA Journal in an email that the communication at issue “was never coercive, nor was it threatening.”

“The quality of Mr. Letourneau’s legal services was not impaired during the representation,” Andrus said, and “was not diminished with respect to any other client. He has not engaged in any similar communication with any other client, nor has he done so with anyone else who is part of the judicial process. He does not constitute a threat to any client or the integrity of the judicial system. We are looking forward to demonstrating Mr. Letourneau’s fitness to the court, and to seeing him returned to practice as soon as possible.”

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