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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2000-0020



Bar counsel filed a petition for reciprocal discipline of the respondent, William Wright, Jr., who was disbarred by the Supreme Court of New Jersey on March 17, 2000, for knowing misappropriation of client funds. An order of notice issued on May 22, 2000, pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 16 (1), as appearing in 425 Mass. 1319 (1997), directing the respondent to show cause why imposition of the identical discipline in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would be unwarranted. An order of temporary suspension was entered on October 19, 2000. The respondent filed an answer, and a hearing was held on December 27, 2000.

The respondent was admitted to practice law in this Commonwealth on April 28, 1961. He was admitted to practice in New Jersey the same year. A random audit of his books and records beginning in December, 1998, by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics led to charges of knowingly misappropriating client funds. The matter was tried to a special master. The respondent claimed that his bookkeeper, who subsequently became his wife, had used client funds for her business without his knowledge. The evidence suggested otherwise, and the master so found. The evidence established that the respondent used client funds to open an account for his bookkeeper's business. He endorsed a check made payable to him by his bookkeeper from her business account, bearing a notation to real estate he planned to purchase. The respondent then covered an overdraft in his client trust account with proceeds of a bank loan to his bookkeeper's business, for which he signed the note as its president. The Disciplinary Review Board agreed with the special master, and the New Jersey Supreme Court accepted the findings that the respondent knowingly misappropriated funds of his clients. We accord deference to the decision of other States in matters of reciprocal discipline. See Matter of Watt, 430 Mass. 232, 236 (1999).

The respondent further contends that he was the victim of racially-based selective enforcement of ethical rules. In his brief filed with the New Jersey Supreme Court on December 17, 1999, the respondent conceded that he had no evidence to substantiate his claim. In addition, the cases on which he relied do not support his claim that white attorneys are treated differently. These issues were raised during the proceedings in New Jersey. I do not sit in review of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

In the absence of any special mitigating facts, the intentional use of client funds may require disbarment or indefinite suspension. See In the Matter of Schoepfer, 426 Mass. 183, 187 (1997). New Jersey applies similar considerations. See In re: Hein, 104 N.J. 297 (1986) (alcohol abuse viewed as circumstances mitigating disbarment). Here, there are no mitigating circumstances. Moreover, there was evidence that the respondent asked two clients to sign affidavits containing false information concerning his use of their funds. Disbarment is appropriate.

An order of disbarment is to issue, retroactive to October 19, 2000, the date of the respondent's temporary suspension.

By the Court,

Associate Justice

DATED: May 9, 2001

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