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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2000-048

IN RE: VINCENT J. FROIO JR.

S.J.C. Order of Reinstatement entered by Justice Spina on March 3, 2003.

HEARING PANEL REPORT

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner Vincent J. Froio, Jr. seeks reinstatement after a one year and one day suspension that was imposed on June 27, 2001, retroactive to September 15, 2000.1 Petitioner has been eligible to apply for reinstatement since September 15, 2001; his petition (Exhibit 6) is dated March 12, 2002.

The Hearing Panel heard the matter on June 10 and June 11, 2002. Petitioner called four witnesses - himself, the director of a homeless shelter where Petitioner has done community service work, a former employer, and Petitioner's psychiatrist. Bar counsel called one witness, a Boston lawyer, who testified as a concerned member of the Bar. The parties introduced without objection a total of thirteen exhibits. The Petition contains a number of supportive letters, including several from Petitioner's former professional colleagues.

During the hearing, Bar counsel conceded that Petitioner had sufficiently demonstrated competency and learning in the law. Tr. I, pp. 99-100.2 At the conclusion of the hearing, Bar counsel expressed opposition to the Petition at least while Petitioner remained under the supervision of the Boston Municipal Court (BMC) Probation Department. Tr. II, pp. 72-75.3

The Panel agreed with Bar counsel as to the timing of its consideration of the Petition and communicated this view to the parties. See letter of General Counsel dated June 12, 2002. The Panel left the record open and invited the parties to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law as well as additional evidence if and when Petitioner's probation was terminated. On October 31, 2002, Petitioner's probation was terminated. See Status Report dated November 14, 2002. Bar counsel now does not oppose the Petition, although Bar Counsel seeks a 2-year probationary term as a condition of reinstatement. The Panel now recommends favorable action on the Petition.

II. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

1. Petitioner was admitted to the Bar in December of 1999 and is a specialist in patent law. Prior to attending law school, Petitioner worked as an electrical engineer. Tr. II, pp. 116-118. Following graduation from law school, Petitioner worked at a small patent law firm where he had clerked while in law school. In April of 2000, Petitioner was recruited by a head hunter and took a position at a large Boston firm.

2. At the time of the events giving rise to discipline, Petitioner had for some time been taking prescription medication for depression and attention deficit disorder. Tr. II, pp. 130.

3. In the early morning of August 5, 2000, Petitioner was arrested by the Boston police near the apartment of a former girlfriend. Petitioner had broken into the apartment and vandalized it. He also threatened the life of the former girlfriend over the telephone. (She was elsewhere on the evening in question.) These events lead to Petitioner's incarceration at the Nashua Street Jail, at an in-patient facility in New Hampshire, and at Bridgewater State Hospital.

4. On October 17, 2000, Petitioner admitted to sufficient facts in the BMC as to charges of breaking and entering in the night-time, malicious destruction of property, and threats. The first two of these offenses are felonies under Massachusetts law. Petitioner was placed on probation until April of 2003. Conditions of his probation included successful completion of an anger management course, 200 hours of community service, and restitution to the victim and/or to her landlord.4

5. Petitioner has accepted full responsibility for his conduct on the evening in question, conduct his attorney appropriately described at the outset of the hearing as "inexcusable" and "outrageous." Tr. I, p. 9. By way of explanation and not excuse, Petitioner pointed to the following events as having contributed to his misconduct. First, he had recently changed jobs and was working in a more stressful and pressurized environment. Just prior to the evening in question, he had completed work on two major time-sensitive projects. Tr. II, pp. 29-30. Second, as a result of these commitments, he had been sleep-deprived for most of the previous week and consumed an excessive amount of alcohol at a law firm function just prior to the events in question. Third, he had taken an inappropriate dose of his prescription medicine (in part to compensate for missed doses) which, when mixed with alcohol, impaired his judgment. Tr. II, p. 131. Finally, Petitioner was upset with the recent unraveling of his two and one-half year relationship with the victim.5

6. In the aftermath of the resolution of the criminal case, Petitioner satisfactorily completed all that was required of him as a condition of his probation. His community service work at Lazarus House, a shelter in Lawrence, was noted by its Executive Director as "awesome" and beyond what Petitioner's probation required. Tr. I, pp. 103-114.

7. As noted, Bar counsel conceded that Petitioner established the required competency and learning in the law. The Panel accordingly sees no need to comment further on this aspect of the Petition.

8. Petitioner's treating psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Brown, testified at length in support of the Petition and submitted a follow-up letter dated November 5, 2002. Dr. Brown began treating Petitioner shortly after his arrest and has seen him regularly since. His initial diagnosis included major depression and recurrent psychostimulant withdrawal. Tr. I, p. 42. Dr. Brown has continued to prescribe medication for depression and attention deficit disorder and has recommended that Petitioner limit his consumption of alcohol and continue with therapy. Dr. Brown testified that Petitioner has shown the appropriate amount of insight into and remorse for his conduct. Tr. I, pp. 26, 36. Dr. Brown believes that Petitioner has the moral qualifications to resume the practice of law. Tr. I, p. 40. Dr. Brown believes that Petitioner will be capable of practicing law again in a pressurized environment. Tr. I, p. 71.

9. Dr. Brown's November 5 letter reiterates these opinions and goes so far as to recommend that Petitioner may cease therapy treatments in March of 2003.

10. Petitioner has worked with Dr. Brown to gain "coping skills" to enable him better to handle stresses and external situations such as those that gave rise to the discipline.

11. Bruce Jopse, Esq., a Boston patent attorney and Petitioner's former employer, testified in favor of the Petition. Mr. Jopse pointed out that Petitioner's skills, which include an electrical engineering degree and several years of employment in that field are "badly needed." Tr. I, p. 102.

12. Petitioner has adjusted his expectations in an effort to avoid a repeat of the events leading up to his suspension. He no longer aspires to be a "super star" and will be content with a more balanced life. Tr. II, p. 19.

13. The Panel concludes that Petitioner has the moral qualifications required for re-admission to practice. See Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, Section 18(5). The Panel also concludes that Petitioner's reinstatement will not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the Bar, the administration of justice, or the public interest. Ibid. Petitioner's conduct on the evening in question was deplorable, and Petitioner was quite rightly prosecuted criminally and suspended from the practice of law. Although Petitioner's offenses did not relate to the practice of law, his conduct was unacceptable by any standard. The Panel recognizes, however, the penalties that have been imposed on Petitioner and credits the extent of Petitioner's remorse. The Panel also credits Petitioner's actions since his arrest, including his community service and his efforts to maintain his learning in the law. Petitioner has now served a suspension of over two years, significantly longer than the one imposed by the Supreme Judicial Court.

14. The Panel has carefully considered a letter written by the victim opposing reinstatement that was marked as Exhibit 3.6 While the sentiments expressed by the victim are understandable, they do not persuade the Panel that Petitioner has failed to meet the burden imposed on him by Rule 4:01, Section 18(5). The victim has recently settled her civil claims against Petitioner and has received or will receive a significant cash payment from him. See Exhibit 5, Tr. II, p. 12.

15. The Panel believes that Petitioner understands the seriousness of his misconduct and has dealt with the aspects of his life that led to it. The Panel does not believe there will be a recurrence of it.

III. CONCLUSION

For the reasons stated, the Panel recommends that the Petition for Reinstatement be granted. Although the issue is a close one, the Panel does not believe that probationary conditions are appropriate. Petitioner has completed a lengthy series of psychiatric treatments, and the Panel does not believe that probation as a condition of reinstatement will accomplish any of the goals of the disciplinary process. The Panel denies Petitioner's motion for a protective order.

THE HEARING PANEL

Thomas E. Peisch, Esq., Chair
Constance L. Rudnick, Esq.
Robert J. Guttentag


FOOTNOTES

1 On August 22, 2000, Petitioner was placed on disability inactive status.
2 Transcript references will be by volume and page, e.g. “Tr. I, p. _.”
3 Petitioner was placed on probation until April, 2003 for the criminal offenses giving rise to his suspension.
4 The victim, whose name need not be disclosed here, was at the time a medical resident. It also appears that she is an attorney. The record reflects that some contacts between Petitioner and the victim continued after Petitioner’s arrest notwithstanding the existence of a restraining order. However, no contempt or other action resulted, and some of these contacts appear to have been initiated by the victim. See Exhibit 13.
5 Petitioner was also in the process of purchasing his first condominium at the time of these events.
6 The letter is undated, but the parties agree that it was prepared in contemplation of these proceedings.



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