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Case Abstracts for matters heard in January of 2010

CSB-2009-014 Peter Langan Schofield, Grafton, MA  (Disbarred)
Claimant is a 501(c)(19) veterans organization founded in 1946 whose members were descended from a shared nationality.  In 1953, the organization purchased a membership facility for $14,000.  The mortgage was paid with the organizationís own internally-generated funds and members contributed their trade skills to maintain the facility.  When the shrinking membership voted to sell the facility, they retained Mr. Schofield to represent them for the June 2004 sale.  From the sale price of $560,000, Mr. Schofield received net proceeds of $370,143.94.  He advised members that proceeds would be "frozen" until they could get a declaratory judgment on what the organization could legally do with the proceeds.  The litigation began in September 2005 and in March 2006, Mr. Schofield informed the organization that he was closing his law practice for personal reasons.  While trying to collect their files and escrowed funds, they learned all $355,195.61 was gone.  In May 2006, Mr. Schofield was disbarred.  In October 2007, he pleaded guilty to felony theft from the organization (plus 8 other counts) and was sentenced to a jail term plus 15 years probation.  The organization received a July 2008 default judgment and execution against Mr. Schofield for $1,109,265.66.  Successor counsel settled the declaratory judgment action in January 2010 by agreeing with the Attorney General that 1/3 of any award the Board might make would go into a college scholarship fund for descendants of the shared nationality with preference given to families of veterans.  The other 2/3 could be shared by the organizationís surviving individual members.  The organizationís charter provided that if its membership ever fell below five, it would be dissolved and its net assets given to such a scholarship fund.  The Board first determined that the negotiated settlement did not bind it.  It then found a defalcation of $355,196, and, in light of the totality of the circumstances, made an award of $177,598 payable to the organization and a well-regarded community foundation to establish a college scholarship fund as described in the settlement of the declaratory judgment action.

CSB-2009-055 Walter E. Steele, Jr., South Boston, MA (Disbarred) 
In February 2007, claimant A advanced $2,500 to Mr. Steele that he borrowed from claimant B to resolve an $88,000 child support lien the Massachusetts Department of Revenue held against claimant A.  In July 2007, the SJC administratively suspended Mr. Steele for failure to cooperate with bar counsel's investigation on another matter.  Mr. Steele notified neither claimant of his suspension which remained in place until his disbarment in July 2008.  In October 2008, claimant B called Mr. Steele to inquire about his deposit after learning from bar counsel that Mr. Steele had been disbarred.  Mr. Steele falsely stated that he was still working on the matter with the Massachusetts DOR and had already reduced the lien to $60,000 and was expecting another $30,000 reduction shortly.  In addition, Mr. Steele insisted to both claimants that he was not disbarred.  The Board found a defalcation of $2,500 and, with claimant Aís consent, made an award in that amount to claimant B.

CSB-2009-069 Walter E. Steele, Jr., South Boston, MA (Disbarred) 
Claimant paid Mr. Steele a $1,000 retainer in September 2006 to assist her with an identity theft of her credit card.  She delivered her files and research to Mr. Steele who negotiated claimant's retainer check for cash on the very day he received it.  After that initial meeting, Mr. Steele never communicated with claimant and never returned her telephone calls, e-mails or letters.  Mr. Steele never returned claimant's documents to her.  Claimant reported Mr. Steele to bar counsel in October 2007 after he had been administratively suspended.  She was unaware of Mr. Steele's suspension because he failed to comply with the notice requirements of the suspension order.  The Board found a defalcation of $1,000 and made an award in that amount. 

CSB-2009-044 David Ryan O'Desky, Springfield, MA (Disbarred) 
Between January and October 2007, claimant paid Mr. O'Desky $1,900 to represent him in a dispute with his landlord in Housing Court.  In December 2007, Mr. O'Desky told claimant that he won the suit and gave claimant his personal check for $15,000.  That check bounced because of insufficient funds.  Delivery of that check was Mr. O'Desky's attempt to cover-up the reality that he had done nothing on behalf of claimant for the $1,900 fee paid to him.  The Board found a defalcation of $1,900 and made an award in that amount. 

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