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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2002-013


S.J.C. Judgment of Disbarment entered by Justice Spina on January 24, 2002.1


This matter came before the Court on the respondentís affidavit of resignation pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, ß 15.

The respondent was duly admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on June 7, 1977. He was indefinitely suspended from practice on March 21, 2001 for unrelated conduct. In the Matter of Richard A. Galante, 17 Mass. Attíy Disc. R. ____ (2001).

In or about 1998, the respondent agreed to represent a husband in a divorce matter. Between 1998 and 1999, the respondent misrepresented to the husband on numerous occasions that he had filed a divorce action and that the divorce was progressing. In fact, the respondent had not filed a divorce action in court on behalf of the husband. In November of 1999, the respondent misrepresented to the husband that the divorce had been granted, and that he could pick up the final divorce decree from the respondentís office the following month. In December of 1999, the respondent gave the husband a document purporting to be a Certificate of Divorce Absolute, dated December 15, 1999, which he claimed had been issued by the Probate Court. In fact, the respondent had fabricated the court judgment, and forged the signature of the register.

The husband understood that he was divorced. The husband, who is retired from military service, took the fabricated divorce judgment prepared by the respondent and filed it with military authorities in order to have his wife removed from his health insurance. The husband subsequently married another woman, who gave birth to their child. The husband requested and obtained health insurance coverage for his second wife and their child from the federal government.

In 2000, the respondent prepared income tax returns for the husband.

In or about August 2000, the husbandís first wife contacted the respondent, whom she remembered from his representation of the husband in other matters, for assistance when she found out that she had lost her health insurance coverage under the husbandís policy. The respondent agreed to represent the wife in determining why her coverage had been cancelled. The respondent told the wife that the husband had spoken with him some months ago about a possible divorce, but falsely informed the wife that he had not represented the husband in the matter. The respondent agreed to contact the probate courts on behalf of the wife to determine the status of any divorce matter.

The respondent then falsely informed the wife that the husband had filed for divorce and agreed to represent the wife in the divorce matter. Over the course of the following months, the respondent misrepresented to the first wife that he was taking actions on her behalf in the supposed divorce proceeding. After the respondent missed several appointments with the wife, she requested copies of court papers related to the divorce action, and the respondent gave her a copy of the forged certificate of absolute divorce which he had previously given to the husband.

On March 21, 2001, the Supreme Judicial Court entered the order of indefinite suspension. The respondent did not send the wife a written notice of his suspension as required by the order and by S.J.C. Rule 4:01, ß 17. On April 11, 2001, the respondent filed an affidavit of compliance in which he falsely certified under oath that he had fully complied with the provisions of the order and with the relative to his suspension.

In or about June of 2001, the wife learned that the certificate of divorce absolute had been fabricated, and that no divorce matter had ever been filed. The wife was able to have her health insurance coverage under the husbandís policy reinstated. This caused the health insurance for the second wife to be cancelled.

In July of 2001, the husband sought new counsel concerning his second wifeís insurance coverage. His new attorney discovered that the certificate of divorce absolute that the respondent had given to the husband was fraudulent. Subsequently, the husband was investigated by the military police for engaging in a fraud relative to filing false divorce papers. The charges against the husband were dropped after the respondentís actions became known. However, as a result of the respondentís actions, the husband continues to face legal and financial problems arising out of his second marriage.

Bar Counsel notified the respondent in September of 2001 that it had opened an investigation into this matter, and requested that he file a written response. The respondent did not reply to Bar Counselís requests for information, or appear for a meeting with Bar Counsel when subpoenaed to do so.

By neglecting his clientsí divorce matter, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), and 1.3. By fabricating a false divorce decree, and by making repeated misrepresentations to his clients, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c). By undertaking to represent the wife despite his prior representation of the husband in the same matter and his concurrent representation of the husband in another matter, all without informing his clients of the conflicts of interest involved, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.7(a) and 1.9(a). By failing to comply with the Courtís order of indefinite suspension and by filing a false affidavit of compliance under oath, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c) and (d). By failing to cooperate with Bar Counselís investigation, resulting in the issuance of a subpoena, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(g) and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, ß 3(1).

On November 28, 2001, the respondent submitted his affidavit of resignation from the practice of law. In the affidavit, the respondent acknowledged that the material facts upon which the statement of disciplinary charges was predicated were true, and that a Hearing Committee, the Board, and the Court would conclude that he committed the material acts set forth in the statement of disciplinary charges. On December 17, 2001, the Board of Bar Overseers unanimously voted to recommend that the affidavit of resignation be accepted and that an order of disbarment enter forthwith. The Supreme Judicial Court so ordered on January 24, 2002.

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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