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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2001-011

IN RE: ROBERT S. LAPPIN

S.J.C. Order Accepting Resignation as a Disciplinary Sanction entered by Justice Cordy on March 20, 2001. 1

SUMMARY 2

By the early 1990's, the respondent had begun to wind down his law practice in anticipation of retirement. The respondent spent considerable time away from his office, either at his house on Cape Cod or his house in Florida, and devoted minimal attention to his practice.

In August 1991, the respondent hired Linda Ortstein as his secretary. The respondent permitted her to handle all matters related to the respondent's client funds account, including transferring funds between accounts, making third party payments, and reviewing bank statements. The respondent did not supervise Ortstein's management of the accounts.

Within a month of starting work for the respondent, Ortstein began to steal funds belonging to several of the respondent's clients. Over the next four years, in at least 126 transactions, Ortstein took no less than $2,700,000.00 of client funds.

The respondent did not learn of the theft of funds until July 1995. The respondent then immediately terminated Ortstein's employment.

On November 9, 1995, the respondent filed suit against Ortstein alleging that she had converted to her own use over $2,000,000.00 of the respondent's clients' funds. On January 26, 1996, the clients filed suit against the respondent, Ortstein, and others alleging, among other things, that the respondent's neglect permitted Ortstein to steal the funds. On June 28, 1996, the complaints were consolidated for all purposes. On May 25, 2000, the respondent entered into a settlement agreement with his clients.

On October 26, 1999, the federal grand jury for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts handed up a fourteen-count indictment against Ortstein charging her with mail fraud, wire fraud, tax evasion, and interstate transport of stolen property. On November 28, 2000, Ortstein pled guilty to all fourteen counts of the indictment.

The respondent has not practiced law since February 21, 1997, when he assumed retired status. On January 23, 2001, the respondent filed an affidavit of resignation pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, § 15. The respondent admitted that his neglect of his law practice, his failure to supervise Ortstein, his delegation to Ortstein of the responsibility for managing his clients' funds account, and his failure to keep his clients' funds in a place of safekeeping violated Canon One, Disciplinary Rule 1-102(A)(6) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law); Canon Six, Disciplinary Rules 6-101(A)(3) (a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him); Canon Seven, Disciplinary Rules 7-101(A)(1), (2), and (3) (a lawyer shall not intentionally fail to seek the lawful objectives of his client, fail to carry out a contract of employment, or prejudice or damage his client during the course of the representation); and Canon Nine, Disciplinary Rule 9-102 (B)(2) (a lawyer shall keep the property of a client in a place of safekeeping)

On February 12, 2001, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to recommend to the Supreme Judicial Court that the respondent's affidavit of resignation be accepted as a disciplinary sanction. On March 20, 2001, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County entered judgment accepting the respondent's affidavit of resignation as a disciplinary sanction.


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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