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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2002-045

IN RE: ANDREA BUTLER

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Spina on July 26, 2002, with an effective date of August 25, 2002.1

SUMMARY2

The respondent neglected four matters and failed to cooperate in Bar Counselís investigation, as follows:

In the first matter, in July 1997, a client retained the respondent to pursue an underinsurance claim against her automobile insurance policy. The respondent orally agreed to undertake representation of the client on a contingent fee basis. The respondentís failure to execute a contingent fee agreement with the client violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(c).

Between July 1997 and October 1997, the respondent worked on the case including sending a letter of representation to the clientís insurance company. Thereafter, the respondent neglected the clientís claim. The respondent failed to send any settlement package to the underinsurance carrier and failed to demand arbitration (which was mandatory) under the terms of the policy. Also during this same period, the respondent failed to return her clientís phone calls or respond to her letters. The respondentís neglect of a legal matter entrusted to her, and her failure to adequately communicate with her client, was in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.3 and 1.4 for conduct on or after January 1, 1998, and in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3) for conduct before January 1, 1998.

In May 1999, before the statute of limitations expired, the client retained successor counsel. Beginning in May 1999, the client and the clientís successor counsel made repeated unsuccessful demands on the respondent for the clientís file. The respondent produced the file on November 18, 1999, after a complaint was filed with Bar Counsel. The respondentís conduct in this regard was in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(e).

In the second matter, a client retained the respondent in 1993 to represent her in an automobile accident bodily injury claim resulting from a collision with a vehicle owned by rental car company. On June 3, 1996, the respondent filed a civil complaint on behalf of the client in the Suffolk Superior Court. On December 20, 1996, the case was transferred to the Boston Municipal Court. The respondent received a copy of the remand notice. On March 28, 1997, the case was dismissed due to the respondentís failure to respond to discovery. The client was unaware of the outstanding discovery or of the dismissal of her case until after she filed a complaint with Bar Counsel in May 2000. The respondentís neglect of a legal matter entrusted to her, and her failure to adequately communicate with her client, was in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3).

In the third matter, a client retained the respondent in September 1993 to represent her in a bodily injury claim resulting from an automobile collision. Liability in this case was problematic. On September 20, 1996, the respondent filed a civil claim on behalf of the client in the Chelsea District Court. On September 10, 1997, the case was dismissed due to the respondentís failure to respond to discovery. The client was unaware of the outstanding discovery or of the dismissal of her case until after she filed a complaint with Bar Counsel in May 2000. The respondentís neglect of a legal matter entrusted to her, and her failure to adequately communicate with her client, was in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3).

In the fourth matter, the respondent neglected to finalize the execution of a clientís will. Ultimately, the client moved to Florida and retained Florida counsel to handle the matter for her. The respondentís neglect of a legal matter entrusted to her was in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3).

In addition, the respondent failed to cooperate in the investigation of the matters described above. As a result, in two of the matters, Bar Counsel was required to subpoena the respondent. The respondentís failure cooperate was in violation of S.J.C. Rule 4:01 ß 3(1), and Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(g).

After Bar Counsel served a petition for discipline, the parties stipulated that the appropriate sanction was a six-month suspension. On February 11, 2002, the Board of Bar Overseers issued a preliminary vote rejecting the proposed sanction. The parties subsequently supplemented the stipulation and further agreed that reinstatement would be subject to certain conditions, including the respondentís attending at a continuing legal education course designated by Bar Counsel, obtaining malpractice insurance after reinstatement and executing of a peer review agreement. On July 8, 2002, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to adopt the partiesí supplemented stipulation and recommend a six-month suspension, with clarification that the policy of malpractice insurance would continue for five years after reinstatement and the peer review agreement would be of a duration of not less than two years. On July 26, 2002, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County so ordered.

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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