The professional licensing board that oversees attorneys in Maine is asking the state’s highest court to disbar a Saco lawyer who engaged in sex acts with a client, and who was previously suspended from practicing law after he pleaded guilty to federal charges and served prison time for money laundering.
Gary Prolman was sanctioned in September 2017 after a client filed a complaint with the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar that Prolman moved her into his apartment and then on multiple occasions engaged in sexual acts with her – allegations that Prolman denies.
Prolman’s suspension took effect Nov. 1, 2017, and ended April 30.
But bar attorneys filed an appeal May 7 with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court asking the justices to re-evaluate the decision and to disbar Prolman, alleging that the single supreme court justice who heard the discipline case abused his discretion when he failed to apply the correct standards in making his decision.
Prolman, in response, argued that the judge’s decision should be upheld, that the proper standards were applied in deciding his suspension and that there were no errors of law or abuse of discretion.
Attorneys in Maine and throughout the nation are held to standards of ethical conduct set out by the professional licensing agencies, and often are guided by national industry group recommendations, such as the American Bar Association’s model policies.
In Maine, disciplinary hearings are held before a single justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Attorney standards of conduct are governed by local rules, but the Maine guidelines also reference the model policies of the ABA.
The Board of Overseers attorneys argue that the single justice in this case, Donald G. Alexander, did not properly apply the ABA standards, which would have resulted in a stiffer penalty.
But Prolman, through an attorney, argues that Maine’s embrace of the ABA standards is partial, at best, and that the Maine Board of Overseers during a review of how the two sets of rules should interact chose to favor Maine-specific rules and procedures, as opposed to the “one size fits all” approach of the ABA model.
The court will hear oral arguments June 13.
Prolman’s recent trouble with the bar began in March 2017, when a 27-year-old female client, referred to in court papers only by the initials E.B., contacted Prolman because she had just been savagely beaten by a boyfriend and could not return to her Topsham apartment and needed a place to stay.
E.B. and her probation officer, along with law enforcement, searched on short notice for an apartment but could not find one. Prolman, who at the time lived above his Saco law office, offered her a spare bedroom, but did not volunteer the fact that he also lived there.
After she moved in, Prolman helped her buy a new cellphone and added her to his calling plan, and helped her get a job as a waitress at a local restaurant, according to court papers.
But on more than one occasion in the 11 days she was staying there, Prolman approached her seeking sexual gratification and engaged in sexual acts with her, according to the court’s finding of fact. She finally left the apartment after Prolman entered her bedroom one night seeking sex, but she rebuffed him.
Prolman continues to deny that he ever had sexual contact with the woman, and the two sides dispute other facts, including whether Prolman attempted to offer E.B. $8,500 so she would not testify against him. Prolman continues to deny any overture of a payoff, and instead asserted that it was E.B. who sought cash to make the bar complaint go away.
Prior to his most recent suspension, Prolman was sentenced in 2014 by a federal judge to two years in prison for laundering $177,500 of drug proceeds. Prolman was released and resumed practicing July 1, 2016.