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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

No. BD-2000-054

IN RE: JOHN T. BURNS

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Spina on October 2, 2000,
with an effective date of November 1, 2000.1

SUMMARY2

On June 12, 1996, the respondent was retained to represent a client who had been indicted in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on eight counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Between July 1, 1996 and April 7, 1997, the respondent employed Harvey Brower to research and draft all the pre-trial motions and supporting memoranda of law that the respondent signed and filed in the client's criminal case. The respondent provided little or no supervision of Brower's work. The respondent knew that Brower had been disbarred by the Supreme Judicial Court on August 16, 1979. See Matter of Brower, 1 Mass. Att'y Disc. R 45 (1979) Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, § 17(7), prohibits disbarred or suspended lawyers from engaging in paralegal work unless the lawyer has the permission of the court pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rules 4:01, § 18(5), and § 17(7) also prohibits lawyers from knowingly employing in any capacity a suspended or disbarred lawyer. The respondent also knew that Brower had not received the required permission to work as a paralegal.

On April 11, 1997, the respondent's client was found guilty of two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice and not guilty of the other counts in the indictment. Sentencing was scheduled for July 14, 1997.

Between July 2, 1997 and September 30, 1997, Brower drafted two motions to continue the client's sentencing and a memorandum of law in support of the motions that the respondent filed or caused to be filed with the court. The respondent provided little or no supervision or review of this work.

The respondent's client was sentenced on November 3, 1997. At some time between the date of his arraignment and his sentencing, the client, with the respondent's knowledge, consulted Brower for legal advice.

The respondent's employment of a disbarred lawyer to work on the client's case violated Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, § 17(7)(i), and therefore Canon One, Disciplinary Rules 1-102(A)(5) and (6) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law) The respondent's assistance in the unauthorized practice of law violated Canon Three, Disciplinary Rule 3-101(A) (a lawyer shall not aid a non-lawyer in the unauthorized practice of law)

A petition for discipline alleging these facts and Disciplinary Rules violations was filed with the Board of Bar Overseers on July 24, 2000. On the same day, the respondent filed an answer to the petition for discipline admitting to the facts and disciplinary violations and the parties filed a stipulation recommending that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six months.

On August 14, 2000, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to accept the parties' stipulation and recommendation for discipline. On October 2, 2000, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk Country (Spina, J.) entered an order suspending the respondent from the practice of law for six months.

1 The complete Order of the Court is available by contacting the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County.

2 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record before the Court.



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