February 5

Waterville lawyer suspended from practice for six months

Other problems for Charles Ferris include defaulting on a federal education loan and a pending lawsuit charging negligence.

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

“This subpoena ... encompassed all of Mrs. A’s text message communications during that time, including privileged communications between Ms. A. and her attorney and privileged communication between Ms. A. and her health care providers,” Alexander wrote about one of those subpoenas. He also noted that the other people involved in the case were not given proper notice of the subpoenas. A footnote in Alexander’s order says the original purpose for seeking the records was to assist Ferris’s client with a defense if against any domestic abuse or violence charge were lodged against him.

Alexander said the subpoenas were honored, and Ferris at one point said he had “over 50,000 text messages” between his client’s former wife and the man she later married.

“That U.S. Cellular would voluntarily provide to Ferris and (his client) copes of text messages containing sensitive and privileged material appears extraordinary in light of the ongoing debate about the propriety of government agencies, supported by court orders, reviewing cell phone call logs that do not even include the actual text of messages such as were freely provided in response to the subpoenas here,” Alexander wrote.

Because of that case, two attorneys, Julian Sweet and Sarah Mitchell, filed grievance complaints against Ferris with the Board of Overseers of the Bar, which regulates attorney conduct.

In the divorce case itself, District Judge Charles Dow issued sanctions against Ferris, concluding he violated rules of civil procedure,“generally prohibited Ferris from using any of the wrongfully obtained text messages in the divorce matter,” and ordering him to personally pay $500 to Sweet and $1,000 to Mitchell.

Alexander’s order says that Ferris’s cousin’s ex-wife and her current husband have been embarrassed because they believe others in the Waterville community might have read the contents of those text messages.

He said Ferris was wrong in allowing his client to deal directly with U.S. Cellular and to copy the text messages sent and received by his ex-wife.

“The discipline imposed in this matter must include a plan to identify and remove from Ferris’ and (his client’s) access and control the more than 50,000 text messages that Ferris claimed to have obtained from U.S. Cellular,” Alexander wrote.

Alexander said Ferris violated a rule requiring fairness to opposing parties and counsel and by allowing his client to handle the message when he was prohibited by a court order from contact with his ex-wife.

Ferris cannot return to practice until an attorney for the Board of Overseers of the Bar has certified that the text messages were purged.

Betty Adams — 621-5631badams@centralmaine.comTwitter: @betadams

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