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Case Abstracts for matters heard in September of 2008

CSB-2008-024  Robert P. Marks, Foxborough, MA  (Suspended)
Claimants owned four mortgaged properties on the brink of default.  A scam artist disguised as a representative of a mortgage brokerage business first offered to find new mortgage lenders to refinance claimants‚ mortgages.  As default loomed, the scammer reported that no loans were available but suggested a "trust program" as a temporary solution.  Claimants agreed to the arrangement in late 2003.  In early 2004, Mr. Marks served as the closing attorney engaged by the lender for the trust arrangement.  Claimants were represented by their own counsel who also represented them in bankruptcy court.  The trust program proved to be bogus, claimants' mortgage loans were never paid in full, the supposed buyers-in-trust advanced no funds and claimants ultimately lost their properties and the equity in them.  Claimants allege that Mr. Marks falsely certified to facts which were untrue, failed to record documents, paid funds to entities that provided no services to claimants and certified inaccurate HUD 1's.  Mr. Marks consented to a two-year suspension for presenting false HUD 1 settlement statements, for failing to determine the exact amount due on claimants' existing mortgage and failing to retain sufficient funds from the new lender's proceeds to pay off that loan.  The Board found no evidence of a lawyer-client relationship or of a defalcation and denied the claim.

CSB-2007-069 Lawrence Rizman, Boston, MA (Suspended)
During winter 1997-1998 claimant,  a 58-year old auto mechanic who never completed the seventh grade in his native Puerto Rico, was interviewed by two senior lawyers at a firm where Mr. Rizman was “of counsel” until fall 1998.  The senior lawyers declined the case.  Somehow, claimant then spoke to Mr. Rizman and ultimately signed a single-page fee agreement and Mr. Rizman accepted a $2,500 retainer two months before he had an IOLTA account.  The fee agreement mirrored that used by the law firm but was modified by Mr. Rizman into a bundle of irreconcilable internal contradictions and ambiguities.  Mr. Rizman claimed that he was hired to determine the feasibility of (1) a motion for new trial on a misdemeanor criminal conviction, and (2) a civil rights claim against the arresting officer.  Without benefit of contempraneous documentation, Mr. Rizman claimed that he visited the crime scene, listened to the tape recordings of the trial, evaluated the prosecutor’s opening statement and closing argument for legal/reversible error, reviewed the evidentiary rulings during trial, and evaluated the jury charge.  However, claimant’s conviction had already been affirmed (with one dissent) on direct appeal and the Supreme Judicial Court denied further appellate review.  Any issue discovered by Mr. Rizman would have been deemed already waived with the possible exception of a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.  Skilled appellate counsel, however, persuaded one member of the appellate panel to write a dissenting opinion.  The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimant $2,500.00.

CSB-2008-063 Lawrence Rizman, Boston, MA (Suspended)
Claimant was injured by an uninsured motorist in May 1996 while crossing the street and retained Mr. Rizman because their respective children were schoolmates.  Claimant knew Mr. Rizman personally because their respective children were schoolmates and claimant also knew of Mr. Rizman's personal financial difficulties.  Mr. Rizman submitted claims to claimant’s health and auto insurers and filed suit against the driver in June 1998.  The suit was dismissed in September because Mr. Rizman failed to make timely service on the defendant.  In April 1998, claimant loaned Mr. Rizman $2,500 at his request to pay his rent.  Between June and August 1998, Mr. Rizman received insurance checks in claimant’s name totaling more than $47,000.00 which he endorsed and deposited into his own IOLTA.  Of that amount, Mr. Rizman withdrew more than $23,000, commingled that amount with his own funds, and then intentionally converted them.  In December, 1998 Mr. Rizman paid claimant $3,000.  In October 1999, Mr. Rizman filed a voluntary Chapter 7 proceeding during which he signed, with the advice and assistance of counsel, a reaffirmation agreement of a $22,000 debt to claimant that he recognized arose during “his practice of law” and which “may be non-dischargeable.”  Mr. Rizman paid nothing to claimant under the Reaffirmation Agreement.  The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimant $22,000.

CSB-2008-011 Francis Kelley Landolphi, Salem, MA (Suspended)
In June 1997, claimant retained Mr. Landolphi to defend him in District Court.  They signed a fee agreement in July 1997 and claimant paid Mr. Landolphi $1,000 of a $3,500 retainer before defaulting on his bail in August 1997.  The grand jury indicted claimant and the matter was transferred to Superior Court.  In March 2003 claimant was rearrested in a neighboring county, and charged in District Court.  A friend of the claimant hired Mr. Landolphi to represent claimant at $350 per hour against a $3,500 retainer.  Claimant, through his friend, also retained Mr. Landolphi for the Superior Court matter at $350 per hour against a $5,000 retainer.  All parties agree that claimant paid Mr. Landolphi $8,500 between March 21 and April 7, 2003 and that Mr. Landolphi worked on the District Court and Superior Court matters before his discharge in June 2003.  He then prepared a fee statement to claimant’s friend showing that the $8,500 had been exhausted at the $350 hourly rate and the balance due and owing was over $1,800.  Claimant contended the $8,500 was full payment for the entire representation.  Although claimant contended Mr. Landolphi filed no motions on his behalf, the docket entries show that Mr. Landolphi filed four defense motions.  During 2007, claimant attempted to use the fee arbitration mechanism of the Massachusetts Bar Association but, through counsel, Mr. Landolphi declined to participate.  The Board dismissed the claim as a fee dispute.

CSB-2007-075 John C. McBride, Marblehead, MA (Disbarred)
In January 2000, claimant’s mother paid Mr. McBride $3,000 to represent her son on a motion to revise and revoke.  The son acknowledged that Mr. McBride represented him during two hearings but complained that the representation was negligent and substandard.  Neither son nor mother ever refuted Mr. McBride's response to Bar Counsel about the nature and scope of his legal services.  The Board dismissed the claim as a fee dispute.

CSB-2008-022 James Russell Hodgdon, Norwell, MA (Disbarred)
Deep into the disciplinary process, Mr. Hodgdon accepted a $1,500.00 retainer from claimant on June 5, 2007 to modify a child support order.  According to his June 30, 2007 fee statement to claimant, Mr. Hodgdon prepared and faxed an authorization to former counsel ($45); prepared a fee agreement and letter to claimant ($145); reviewed client's file at Plymouth Probate Court ($112.50) and reviewed the file received from former counsel ($157.50) leaving claimant with credit balance of $1,040.  Mr. Hodgdon never accounted for or returned the unearned retainer.  The Board found a defalcation and awarded claimant $1,040.

CSB-2008-047 James Russell Hodgdon, Norwell, MA  (Disbarred)
Deep into the disciplinary process, Mr. Hodgdon accepted a $2,500.00 retainer from claimant on May 9, 2007 to prepare separate deeds on two pieces of real estate.  According to his May 31, 2007 fee statement to claimant, Mr. Hodgdon performed $1,180 worth of "professional services" leaving claimant with a credit balance of $1,320.  Mr. Hodgdon never accounted for or returned the unearned retainer.  The Board found a defalcation and awarded $$1,320.

CSB-2008-034 Douglas J. Ramsey, North Grafton, MA  (Suspended – Reinstated 10/06/08)
Claimant paid Mr. Ramsey a $3,500 retainer in June-July 2007 to defend him in Superior Court on three felony charges and instructed Mr. Ramsey to apply $1,000 of that retainer to the representation of his cousin on unrelated charges.  The docket entries show that Mr. Ramsey attended one hearing and three status conferences with the ADA on the issues of claimant's criminal responsibility and competence.  Mr. Ramsey also claimed to have visited claimant three times at the Worcester County House of Correction, reviewed discovery documents including claimant's medical records, did legal research and consulted with claimant by telephone several times.  On November 19, 2007, Mr. Ramsey was admitted to a long-term residential treatment program for alcoholism and withdrew from his representation of claimant.  The Board found no defalcation and denied the claim.

CSB-2008-036 Alan Mason, Worcester, MA  (Disbarred)
Claimant, an imprisoned, convicted rapist, believed that Mr. Mason and another lawyer conspired to steal his property by hiring a woman to falsely charge claimant with rape resulting in his conviction.  While imprisoned, his real estate went into receivership; the receiver permitted the property to fall into disrepair and failed to pay taxes causing claimant’s loss of the property.  No lawyer-client relationship existed between claimant and Mr. Mason, nor was there any fiduciary relationship.  The Board found no defalcation and denied the claim.

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