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Case Abstracts for matters heard in March of 2008

CSB 2008-029 Arthur M. Khoury, Lawrence, MA (Disbarred)
In fall 2004, claimant, executor of his uncle's will, retained Mr. Khoury (a close personal friend of the uncle and the drafter of his will) to probate the uncle's will.  Mr. Khoury promptly filed all documents to begin the uncontested probate proceedings. Claimant, however, marshaled the estate assets, paid the expenses, and on October 4, 2005, delivered to Mr. Khoury the estate's net assets consisting of a gold ring and $77,285.34 in cash. Mr. Khoury deposited the estate funds into his client conveyance account on October 6, 2005 and withdrew all of the funds the following month.  By December 1, 2005, Mr. Khoury had misappropriated all of the estate funds, for which conduct he was disbarred.  After his temporary suspension in July 2007, Mr. Khoury gave the gold ring to the proper beneficiary named in the will.  The accounting shows that Mr. Khoury's legal fee was to have been $2,250 but he never received it.  However, claimant gave him a $600 advance for expenses.  Because the evidence revealed only the filing fee for the petition of probate and postage for sending false accountings of the estate funds and the assent forms for the ten beneficiaries, the Board determined that the estate was entitled to a $300 credit against the expense advance. The Board found a total defalcation of $77,585.34 ($77,285.34 + $300) and awarded that amount to claimant, as executor.   

CSB 2007-049 Ronald Ian Segal, Peabody, MA (Deceased)
In May 2004, claimant and 23 others faced federal charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute five kilos or more of cocaine. Claimant engaged Mr. Segal and paid him a $10,000 retainer.  Over the government's objections, Mr. Segal persuaded the court to release claimant on bail and then continued to serve as his counsel for the next 25 months during which time claimant paid him an additional $16,500.  In January 2006, Mr. Segal, who walked with a cane since back surgery in 2001, requested a continuance of a Motion Hearing, Pre-Trial Conference and Trial Date because of the lingering effects of acute toxic hepatitis and the need for back surgery.  In late April or early May 2006, Mr. Segal was stricken with non-small cell lung cancer from which he died on June 22, 2006.  The last pleading he had filed for claimant was a Motion to Withdraw dated June 19, 2006.  Claimant requested and received court-appointed successor counsel who served through the January 2007 trial and May 2007 sentencing. Although claimant filed a Notice of Claim against Mr. Segal's estate in February 2007, he never filed the required suit within one year of Mr. Segal's death.  The estate was properly closed in December 2007. Not only did claimant present no evidence that the perceived loss was caused by Mr. Segal's dishonest conduct but he also wrote as part of the claim application:  "Our claim against the Estate of Ronald Ian Segal should not be interpreted to ascertain 'dishonest conduct' by Attorney Ronald Ian Segal." The Board found no evidence of a defalcation and made no award to claimant.

CSB 2007-043 Anthony R. Bott, East Orleans, MA (Disbarred)
In June 1999, claimant was injured in a two-car auto accident in a supermarket parking lot.  During her first visit to a doctor six days later, claimant learned that she had whiplash, was fitted with a neck brace and given medication. Claimant signed a contingent fee agreement with Mr. Bott and gave him power of attorney on July 13.  Without claimant's knowledge or authorization, Mr. Bott settled the claim for $10,000 in November 2000 and received the settlement check.  Whenever claimant inquired about her claim, Mr. Bott's assistant told her "it was still pending." Mr. Bott notified claimant in May 2005 of his resignation from the bar, explaining that he had settled her claim, that the net due and owing her was $6,428.30 and admitting that he did not have the funds to pay her. In the absence of evidence that Mr. Bott sold the claim short, the Board credited him with a 1/3 contingency fee and expenses, found a defalcation and awarded claimant $6,428.30.

CSB 2007-067 Gerard E. Battista, Norwell, MA (Disbarred)
During October 2002, claimant, an 86-year-old widow, retained Mr. Battista to prepare an estate plan and paid him a $2,000 retainer.  When a year passed and Mr. Battista had done nothing, claimant unsuccessfully attempted to contact him. In June 2004, claimant retained other counsel to attempt to get some response from Mr. Battista. New counsel recovered claimant's personal files and other information given to Mr. Battista to prepare the estate plan. The file included a non-itemized bill dated October 25, 2002.  Mr. Battista performed no legal services for claimant.  The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimant $2,000.

CSB 2007-077 Peter Langan Schofield, Grafton, MA (Disbarred)
In July 2003, claimants purchased a home from a building contractor for $411,300.00. Mr. Schofield represented the contractor on the transaction and reserved $23,101.65 from the sale proceeds to pay off the municipality's pre-sale lien for a sewer betterment project.  In July 2007, the municipality notified claimants that Mr. Schofield never paid off the Sewer Betterment lien and that it was now their responsibility.  The municipality did acknowledge that claimants owed only $11,236.38 because of its understanding with the contractor that claimants' property would be assessed the Sewer Betterment lien for two parcels.  The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimants $11,236.38.

CSB 2007-044 Ralph F. Champa, Cambridge, MA (Deceased)
During August 1998, claimant engaged Mr. Champa to defend him on a multi-count drug indictment and paid him $20,000 in cash for which "a receipt was provided but is now lost."  According to the docket entries, Mr. Champa represented claimant from August 21, 1998 until his death in early August 1999.    During that time he filed a motion to suppress and represented claimant during a hearing on the motion that was ultimately denied.  Successor counsel filed his appearance on September 9, 1999 and represented claimant during the jury trial that resulted in claimant's conviction on all counts. He was sentenced to fifteen years on one count with shorter concurrent sentences on the other counts. While claimant did mention Mr. Champa's death to subsequent counsel, that counsel never informed claimant that he might possibly recover some of fee paid by means of a civil action against Mr. Champa's estate. The Board found no defalcation because claimant presented no evidence of dishonest conduct chargeable to Mr. Champa and made no award.

 

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