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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2001-052

IN RE: TIMOTHY E. STERRITT

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Sosman on August 9, 2001, with an effective date of September 8, 2001.1

SUMMARY2

The respondent is an attorney admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth on November 22, 1978. He maintained a solo law practice concentrating in plaintiffs’ personal injury work involving small or medium-sized claims.

In numerous instances between 1992 and 2000, the respondent neglected to pursue his clients’ claims and, without good cause and unknown to the clients, either failed to file suit on clients’ claims prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations or allowed lawsuits to be dismissed for failure to make service, failure to respond to discovery, or failure to prosecute. The respondent also failed to notify clients that their cases had been dismissed until after a complaint to Bar Counsel was filed by one of the clients and Bar Counsel became aware of these problems.

As to conduct after January 1, 1998, the respondent’s conduct as described above is in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.3, and 1.4 and, as to conduct prior to January 1, 1998, the respondent’s conduct is in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(2),(3) and Canon Seven, DR 7-101(A)(1),(2),(3).

A number of the clients whose claims the respondent did not pursue never contacted him after he wrote to notify them that their cases had been mishandled. As to others, the respondent does not have malpractice insurance but borrowed money and settled the claims of at least seven clients. Other claims are still being negotiated and at least one is in litigation.

In mitigation, until March 1999 when he was first contacted by Bar Counsel, the respondent suffered from active, and increasingly severe, alcoholism. The respondent has been sober since March 8, 1999. Nevertheless, through inaction, he allowed additional cases to be dismissed in late 1999 and 2000.

The matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation for a suspension of a year and a day, with the further understanding that any eventual reinstatement is likely to be conditioned upon appropriate terms of probation. On July 9, 2001, the Board voted to accept the stipulation and to recommend the agreed-upon disposition to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Court so ordered on August 10, 2001.

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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