Mass.gov
   
Mass.Gov home Mass.gov  home get things done agencies Search Mass.Gov


Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2003-013

IN RE: JOHN NICHOLAS SULLIVAN

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Ireland on March 18, 2003, with an effective date of April 17, 2003.1

SUMMARY2

The respondent has served as the Clerk Magistrate of the Newburyport District Court since 1981. His duties include conducting hearings on civil motor vehicle infractions (“CMVIs”) pursuant to G.L. c. 90C, § 3(A)(4). A driver who receives a motor vehicle citation for a civil infraction may contest the citation by requesting a civil district court hearing.

Between 1993 and 1998, the Chief Probation Officer of the court made requests to the respondent for “consideration” concerning nine CMVI hearings involving friends or relatives of the probation officer. These requests were made on “post-it” notes attached to the court files before the files were provided to the respondent at the hearings.

The respondent understood that the probation officer was requesting preferential treatment of the nine cases. The respondent did not report the probation officer’s misconduct to the appropriate judicial authorities or recuse himself from any of the cases. On each of the nine cases, the respondent issued findings of “not responsible”, which is the statutory term for acquittal. Although the respondent was not influenced by the requests for consideration in deciding the nine cases, the findings of “not responsible” in each of the nine cases gave the appearance that the respondent was subject to influence in the performance of his duties.

On January 29, 1999, the respondent was placed upon administrative leave, with pay, by the Chief Justice of the District Courts, pending investigation of this matter. On October 18, 2000, the respondent entered into an agreement with the Supreme Judicial Court’s Committee On Professional Responsibility For Clerks Of The Courts. He agreed that his conduct in this matter violated various canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility For Clerks Of The Courts. The respondent agreed to the imposition of a six-month suspension from his duties as Clerk Magistrate, without pay. The respondent has been reinstated to the position of Clerk Magistrate. The respondent also entered into a Disposition Agreement with the State Ethics Commission on February 22, 2000. He agreed that his conduct violated G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(3), and paid a civil penalty of $3,000 for such violation.

The respondent’s conduct in accepting requests for consideration in nine CMVI cases, failing to report the probation officer’s misconduct to the appropriate judicial authorities, and failing to recuse himself was in violation of Canon One, Disciplinary Rule 1-102(A)(5) and (6), and, for conduct on and after January 1, 1998, Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(d) and 8.4(h).

This matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six months. On February 10, 2003, the Board voted 6-2 to accept the stipulation and the parties’ recommendation. Two members voted to reject the stipulation, preferring greater discipline. On March 18, 2003, a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County entered an order suspending the respondent for six months.

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.



BBO/OBC Privacy Policy. Please direct all questions to webmaster@massbbo.org.
© 2001. Board of Bar Overseers. Office of Bar Counsel. All rights reserved.