State claims immunity, contests defamation allegation by Camden counselor

By Stephen Betts | Jan 31, 2019
Source: File photo

Rockland — The state is claiming that three prosecutors are immune from liability in a defamation lawsuit filed by a Camden counselor.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey filed a response Tuesday, Jan. 29, in the Knox County court to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Camden licensed professional counselor Paul Kemberling against former District Attorney Jonathan Liberman, current Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody, and Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald.

"This is precisely the kind of lawsuit that prosecutorial immunity is supposed to bar," the response filed by the attorney general states.

The state maintains that if prosecutors can be sued over how they negotiate deferred dispositions and other sentencing agreements, they will, out of fear of liability, be deterred from bargaining for conditions they believe are necessary to protect the public, reduce recidivism and otherwise pursue justice.

Kemberling filed his lawsuit Jan. 9, claiming that starting in February 2018, Baroody and Fernald communicated to potential clients that Kemberling had a lack of professionalism. The lawsuit states that there were emails from the prosecutors to defense attorneys informing them that they could use any counselor to evaluate clients, except Kemberling.

The prosecutors pointed out that the District Attorney's Office had prosecuted Kemberling's son, and they were concerned that the counselor could not be fair and neutral in his evaluations.

Evaluations are often required before the District Attorney's Office will reach plea agreements with defendants.

Kemberling's son, Eli Kemberling, was sentenced in July 2015 to serve three years in prison for breaking into two homes and assaulting women while they slept, once bringing a knife with him into the bedroom.

Liberman is now an assistant district attorney in Cumberland County.

The state is asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.

The state further argues that to allow Kemberling's lawsuit to proceed would tell prosecutors that they must put the business interests of non-parties to the criminal justice system ahead of the criminal justice interests of the state.

The response by the state also points out that the older Kemberling acknowledged that the Knox County District Attorney's Office ended its exclusion of him by defense attorneys in mid-August 2018.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Judith H Olson | Feb 09, 2019 23:05

These despicable and unethical actions by the DA's office go to how morally corrupt they are in attempting to force plea deals on defendants.  Attempting to eliminate counselors who likely won't produce certain results favorable to the DA's position when trying to dispose of a matter without a trial, is underhanded and devious. Justice for Mr. Kemberling.

Posted by: Debra Damon | Feb 02, 2019 08:04

I assume the DA's office is so suppose to be professional in their work, but to defame a good counselor behind his back is wrong. I know both Paul and his wife, and believe they have tried to help Adults and Children in this community who have been affected by the Alcohol and Drug problems with have in our community. How can the DA's be Judge and Jury on him when they don't sit on the session that Paul has with his patients. Just because their son had problems in 2015 and broke the law, does not make Paul a bad person, I would think he would push to help his clients out more. We as parents raise our children the best we can, whether there are two parents or one parent raising them. When our children do something wrong in life, is right to blame us for their wrong doing? No it isn't, but as a parent I bet we blame ourselves. Life has many changes in it, children today are all struggling in the society that has been made for them, whether it's parents that drink to much or parents that do drugs or our children who the do the drugs. Why not blame the Doctors who prescribed the medication that has hooked these good people! I think Paul has every right to bring suit against the DA's office for their comments. Apparently whoever they told not to go to Mr. Kemberling felt they were wrong too because Mr. Kemberling must have been told by his clients of this wrong doing. 
This Community, This County and This State, has a severe problem with Opiods, Drinking, and other drugs and we need more Counselors for the addict that needs to find the right one to go to who will listen to him, Rehabs to help these people change their lives.

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