PETITION OF EDWIN R. JONAS III FOR REINSTATEMENT TO THE BAR OF THE STATE OF MAINE
Argued: April 5, 2016
M. Bowie, Esq. (orally), Thompson & Bowie, LLP, Portland,
for appellant Edwin R. Jonas III.
Eee, Esq. (orally), Board of Overseers of the Bar, Augusta,
for appellee Board of Overseers of the Bar.
SAUFLEY, C.T., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and
In 2013, Edwin R. Jonas III, who had been admitted to the
Maine Bar in 1987, petitioned for reinstatement to the bar
from his administrative suspension for failing to register in
1995. A single justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court
[Gorman, J.) ultimately denied Jonas's petition
for reinstatement. Jonas now appeals to us, in our capacity
as the Law Court,  challenging the processes employed by the
Grievance Commission, the Board of Overseers of the Bar, and
the single justice in reviewing his petition for
reinstatement. Jonas also challenges the single justice's
evidentiary rulings during the de novo hearing on his
petition, and the Board's and the single justice's
conclusion that he failed to meet his burden to show that he
was eligible for reinstatement.
The record reflects that Jonas has engaged in more than two
decades of litigation with his ex-wife during which he was
suspended from the bars of three states, jailed for contempt,
declared a vexatious litigant, and admonished by a federal
court for making frivolous arguments. We affirm the single
justice's judgment declining to reinstate Jonas to the
The single justice's factual findings, reported here, are
supported by witness testimony, the parties' exhibits,
and findings and judgments contained in the decisions of
other courts and disciplinary bodies before whom Jonas was a
party. Preliminarily, we note that this matter is complicated
by the fact that, following the completion of the
proceedings, the applicable Maine Bar Rules were repealed and
replaced in their entirety with rules that substantially
changed the procedures for reinstatement since Jonas's
petition was filed. See generally M. Bar R. (Tower
2015) (effective July 1, 2015). Except as otherwise
indicated, all references to the Maine Bar Rules are to the
rules that were in effect at the time of Jonas's
petition. See generally M. Bar R. (Tower 2014).
Jonas was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1987. Because of his
failure to complete an annual registration, see M.
Bar R. 6(b)(1), he was administratively suspended from the
Maine Bar in 1995.
In 1990, Jonas and his wife, Linda Jonas, were divorced.
Since then, Jonas and Linda have been involved in highly
contentious post-divorce litigation. In 1995, while the
parties were litigating competing post-judgment motions,
Linda alleged that Jonas was secretly liquidating assets and
hiding the proceeds in accounts in the Cayman Islands, and
that he planned to move there with the couple's children.
The New Jersey Superior Court ordered Jonas not to transfer
any assets valued over $15, 000 and not to remove the
children from a five-state area.
In direct violation of the court's order, Jonas obtained
a loan of $130, 000 secured by a mortgage on his residence
and continued efforts to sell commercial property that he
rented out as a 7-Eleven building, eventually deeding the
store to his sister and a friend to be held in trust for the
children. In addition, Jonas secretly kept $438, 000 in a
bank account in the Cayman Islands, and on September 15,
1995, he absconded with his children to the Cayman Islands,
where he enrolled them in school.
After Jonas failed to appear at a hearing, the court issued a
warrant for Jonas's arrest, placed the children in
Linda's custody, and took a number of protective measures
designed to ensure that Jonas complied with his financial
obligations imposed by previous court orders. Jonas continued
to defy the court's orders regarding the payment of his
support obligations. Shortly thereafter, Jonas was briefly
incarcerated for contempt of court. The New Jersey Appellate
Division upheld the series of actions taken by the trial
court, stating, "As evidenced by the record, [Jonas]
time and again failed to abide by the court's orders and
deliberately avoided paying alimony and other support to the
As a result of his actions, the New Jersey State Bar
suspended Jonas for a period of six months beginning on
September 2, 2005, for conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal
and conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of
justice. Jonas has not been reinstated in New Jersey.
In 2006, Jonas was reciprocally suspended from the bar of
Pennsylvania for a period of six months based on the
discipline imposed in New Jersey. Jonas was reinstated to
inactive status in Pennsylvania in 2014. In 2007, Jonas was
reciprocally suspended from the Florida bar for a period of
one year for committing conduct intended to disrupt a
After his suspension from the New Jersey bar, Jonas's
post-divorce proceedings in New Jersey continued. Jonas
failed to attend multiple hearings during these proceedings.
Based on Jonas's "obstinate refusal to comply or
properly respond to court orders, " the Appellate
Division dismissed an appeal from Jonas, stating,
"[Jonas's] defiance is especially egregious in light
of the fact that he was an attorney-at-law of this State and
was suspended in this state and others for his willful
evasion of court orders."
At some point prior to 2009, Jonas moved to Montana. When
Linda sought to domesticate the New Jersey judgments in
Montana, Jonas unsuccessfully launched a collateral attack on
the judgments. The court granted Linda's motion to
declare Jonas a vexatious litigant and found that in
attempting to defy the New Jersey judgments, Jonas had
willfully abused his litigation skills by filing
"harassing, duplicative, vexatious, and frivolous"
lawsuits, had filed appeals in matters in which he had
"no objective good faith expectation of prevailing,
" and had caused "needless expense and burden"
During litigation that Jonas instituted in the United States
District Court for the District of Montana against Linda, her
Montana attorney, and others, Jonas was ordered to show cause
why he should not be sanctioned pursuant to Rule 11 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for making frivolous
arguments. After Jonas failed to show good cause, the court
issued a sanction in the form of an admonishment dated August
7, 2014. A copy of its admonishment was forwarded to the
state bars of Maine, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. By the
time the admonishment was forwarded to the Maine Bar,
Jonas's reinstatement proceedings were already pending
before the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar. B. Procedural
History of Jonas's Petition for Reinstatement in Maine
On September 20, 2013, Jonas filed a petition for
reinstatement to the Maine Bar with the Supreme Judicial
Court and the Board of Overseers of the Bar. The matter was
assigned to a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.
Bar Counsel opposed the petition. On March 4, 2014, the
Grievance Commission held a hearing concerning the petition
for reinstatement. The Commission recommended to the Board
that Jonas be conditionally reinstated to the bar. Both Jonas
and Bar Counsel objected to some aspect of the Grievance
Commission's recommendations. In response, the Board
created a "Special Panel" of the Board to review
the evidence adduced at the Commission's hearing, seek
additional written arguments from the parties, and make a
recommendation to the Board as a whole as to whether the
Board should recommend Jonas's reinstatement.
Once the Special Panel completed its work, the full Board
The Board found that Jonas did not meet his burden to
establish that he should be reinstated. The Board concluded
that the Grievance Commission had failed to consider the
necessary factors in determining whether to recommend
reinstatement. On September 24, 2014, the Board recommended
to the single justice that Jonas's petition for
reinstatement be denied.
After briefing and argument on several procedural issues, the
single justice scheduled a de novo hearing on Jonas's
petition in which the court provided the parties an
opportunity to present all relevant evidence and make a
record that was to be "created anew."
Prior to the hearing, Jonas filed a motion in limine seeking
to exclude evidence of any issues regarding Jonas's
conduct that were not raised in the hearing before the
Grievance Commission. The single justice denied the motion,
noting that Jonas had the burden to prove that he was
eligible for reinstatement by clear and convincing evidence,
and concluding that "[d]ue process does not require that
the Board notify Mr. Jonas of those aspects of his burden
that it anticipates challenging at the hearing, nor does due
process limit the Board from challenging any aspect of Mr.
A two-day bench trial was held on April 27 and 28, 2015. At
the trial, Jonas objected to the admission of prior court
orders and decisions in cases that involved him. The single
justice overruled Jonas's objections, admitted the few
orders and decisions ultimately offered by Jonas, and
admitted the many orders and decisions offered by the Board.
On June 22, 2015, the single justice issued a judgment
finding that Jonas had failed to establish by clear and
convincing evidence that he was eligible for reinstatement.
See M. Bar. R. 7.3 (j) (5). In reaching this
conclusion, the single justice "considered the testimony
of witnesses presented during the de novo hearing in April,
the documents admitted in evidence at that hearing, the
findings and conclusions made by various courts in prior
proceedings in which Jonas was a party, and the parties'
arguments." The judgment also indicated, "some of
the cases [relied upon] were specifically provided by the
parties at hearing, and others were found in electronic
databases that are publicly available."
This appeal followed. See 4 M.R.S. § 57 (2016);
In re Application of ...