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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2000-059


S.J.C. Order (Indefinite Suspension) entered by Justice Ireland on November 21, 2000, with an effective date of December 21, 2000. 1


The respondent, Donna M. Marshall, applied for admission to the Arizona bar under the almost identical name of another Massachusetts attorney and submitted fabricated and fraudulently procured documents to support her application. A hearing committee recommended that she be suspended from the practice of law for two years. Both parties appealed to the Board of Bar Overseers. Bar Counsel sought an indefinite suspension and the respondent asked for a term of suspension not exceeding one year. The Board considered the cross-appeals and recommended to the Supreme Judicial Court that the respondent be disbarred. After hearing before a single justice, the respondent was indefinitely suspended.

The underlying facts are as follows. The respondent graduated from the Massachusetts School of Law in 1995 and was admitted to practice in Massachusetts in 1996. In February 1997 she applied to take the Arizona bar exam. As she expected, the Arizona Committee on Character and Fitness denied her application because her law school was not accredited by the American Bar Association and because she had not practiced in Massachusetts for five years. She filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court of Arizona. In the spring of 1997, while her petition was pending, the respondent moved to Phoenix and began working as a paralegal. On May 1, 1997, the court denied her petition for review.

A year later she filed a second application to take the bar exam, this time under the name Donna J. Marshall instead of Donna M. Marshall. Donna J. Marshall is a practicing Massachusetts attorney whom the respondent does not know. The respondent asked that her certificate of admission bear no middle initial.

Mistakenly believing Donna J. Marshall had graduated from the New England School of Law, the respondent identified herself as a graduate of that law school, listed the other lawyer's admission date as her own, and represented that she was not known by any other names or aliases. To support her misrepresentation regarding "her" law degree, the respondent filed with her application a confirmatory letter she had fabricated on counterfeit New England School of Law stationery, complete with a fake stamp reading "Registrar, NESL". She signed the bar application under oath before a notary and falsely attested that her answers were "full, true, and complete in all respects."

The respondent had previously applied for a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Judicial Court for the other Donna Marshall. In that application, which she signed as "Donna J. Marshall" under the penalties of perjury, the respondent gave that attorney's Deerfield address as her own and falsely claimed to have been practicing law in Massachusetts since admission in 1991. In a note she requested that the Court mail the certificate to her "temporary" address in Arizona. The SJC issued the certificate, which the respondent then filed with her Arizona bar application.

On June 22, 1998, the Arizona committee wrote to the respondent asking her to supply her full middle name and to clarify her answer to the question regarding previous applications to the Arizona bar. The respondent filed an amended application in which she falsely gave her middle name as "Jane" and falsely represented that she had never previously applied to the Arizona bar. When the Arizona committee later advised her that the New England School of Law had no record of a 1991 graduate named Donna J. Marshall, the respondent asked to withdraw her application, which she claimed had been "prepared in haste." The Arizona committee reported the matter to the Office of Bar Counsel in Massachusetts.

The respondent's conduct violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.1(a) and 8.4(c), (d), and (h). In aggravation of the respondent's misconduct, the hearing committee found that she had engaged in a pattern of misconduct that reflected planning and premeditation, and that she had persisted in her bar application over the course of two months and withdrew it only after her fraud had been discovered. The hearing committee gave little weight to the absence of prior misconduct and rejected the suggestion that the respondent's inexperience mitigated this kind of misconduct.

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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