The Department of Social and Health Services has found by a preponderance of evidence that former Vancouver attorney MarCine Miller Miles financially exploited and mentally abused a vulnerable woman, whom she previously represented.
The decision was reached Sept. 24 following a two-day administrative hearing in July, in which Miles appealed the initial findings by DSHS Adult Protective Services. Those initial findings were made in June 2017.
Miles resigned from the Washington State Bar Association in lieu of disbarment in April 2017. Her resignation stemmed from an unrelated case, in which she altered an elderly woman’s will and bequeathed $10,000 to herself, according to the association’s findings. Miles denied wrongdoing.
Among the findings in this case, DSHS found: Miles stole $4,657.11 from a 94-year-old former client, trespassed in the woman’s home, violated the Rule of Professional Conduct by using the woman’s financial information to commit theft, shared her private health information without her consent and harassed her.
Miles’ attorney Josephine Townsend, speaking on Miles’ behalf, said her client does not agree with those findings.
“She believes she acted in a manner to protect the interests of her friend whom she believed was being exploited by others,” Townsend wrote in an email Wednesday.
Still, the parties reached a settlement in April 2018, in which Miles agreed to pay the woman $11,000 and not to contact her anymore. The woman has since died.
Vancouver attorney Thomas Hackett had filed a vulnerable adult protection order against Miles on behalf of the former client Jan. 30, 2017. The protection order, among other things, alleged Miles purported to act as the woman’s attorney and agent under power of attorney after she was fired, and continued contacting the woman after she was instructed not to.
“Just, to me, I’m sad about MarCine’s conduct and how it reflects on the legal profession, or maybe disappointed is a better word,” Hackett said in a recent phone interview.
Adult Protective Services did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman with DSHS said the agency will not publicly acknowledge an investigation or whether it was referred to law enforcement, because of confidentiality laws.
No criminal charges have been filed against Miles, but a detective from the Vancouver Police Department property crime unit is investigating, spokeswoman Kim Kapp said.
The investigation has not been referred to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, according to Interim Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor James Smith.
The case started in December 2016 when Miles’ former client was transferred to a nursing facility. Miles was the woman’s attorney for about 20 years.
Miles had prepared a Durable Power of Attorney for the woman in July 2014. The only witness to the client’s signature was Miles’ husband. If Miles could get a physician to write a letter stating the client could no longer “manage her property and affairs effectively,” the legal document would go into effect, leaving Miles in control of the woman’s property and affairs, according to DSHS’ initial order.
On Jan. 3, 2017, Miles and the client’s friend took her to a doctor appointment at Vancouver Clinic. The appointment was described in the DSHS report as not medically necessary and as being a showdown between Miles and the friend. The doctor who evaluated the client submitted a one-paragraph letter stating she wasn’t competent to manage her finances, according to the DSHS findings.
The client didn’t want to be evaluated at Vancouver Clinic. In her own words, she said, “I learned later that (Miles) asked (the doctor) to declare me incompetent. Nothing was said to me about this by MarCine or by the doctor. It was done behind my back, and it made me feel betrayed. I never wanted MarCine to do this type of thing to me.”
Miles immediately used the letter to gain power of attorney and hired herself. Within two days, she contacted an investment adviser at Raymond James, where the client had about $170,000 in investments, according to DSHS’ initial order.
However, the 2014 Durable Power of Attorney wasn’t recorded in the appropriate auditor or recorder’s office, DSHS found, and the question remained if it ever went into effect. The document also contained a clause stating the client at any time could revoke the 2014 Durable Power of Attorney upon written notice, which is what she did Jan. 6, 2017, three days after it supposedly went into effect, according to DSHS’ findings. Miles refused to accept the validity of the revocation, however.
The client then hired Hackett as her new attorney, and on Jan. 9, 2017, he reminded Miles that the 2014 Durable Power of Attorney had been revoked. He also mailed her a letter the following day. That same day, the client demanded Miles return all of her legal files, but Miles ignored the demand. The client later had to petition Clark County Superior Court to get her legal documents back, according to DSHS’ initial order.
Miles also entered the client’s room at ManorCare, without her permission, to complete inventory of her jewelry and changed the client’s door locks without her knowledge, DSHS’ findings say.
On Jan. 11, 2017, Hackett told Miles not to contact his client without him being present. But two days later, Miles hired a therapist to perform a mental health evaluation on her former client. She gave the therapist the former client’s private health information and paid him $600 of the woman’s money. They then showed up unannounced at ManorCare to see the woman but were turned away.
Between Jan. 3, 2017, and Jan. 20, 2017, Miles hired and paid herself more than $4,000 from the former client’s bank account without her consent. The client never received an invoice. On Jan. 19, 2017, Miles requested a check of $4,647.11 from the woman’s account at Raymond James and was paid the next day, according to DSHS’ findings.
It wasn’t until Jan. 23, 2017, that Miles signed a document relinquishing power of attorney, even though it had been revoked weeks prior. Hackett the next day wrote another letter reminding Miles not to contact the woman. He then secured a temporary order of protection against Miles.
Miles on Feb. 7, 2017, filed a petition for guardianship of person or estate. She alleged the former client was incapacitated. The Superior Court entered an order appointing a guardian ad litem, and the woman was forced to incur thousands of dollars of legal expenses, before the parties agreed to settle.
Miles was a longtime attorney in Clark County, and prominent on local boards and organizations. According to Columbian archives, Miles sought election or appointment at least four times to the Clark County District Court bench, in 1986, 1994, 2001 and 2004. In 2006, she unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for county clerk, who is the elected custodian of Superior Court records.
In 1985, she resigned in lieu of termination as a District Court magistrate after at least 1,800 traffic cases she heard were found to have been improperly handled.