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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2003-041


S.J.C. Judgment of Disbarment entered by Justice Sosman on July 14, 2004.1


The respondent was disbarred for misconduct arising out of his representation of clients in three matters, as well as for his failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel’s investigation.

In the first matter, the respondent was retained by four siblings (“the clients”) who were named as co-executors and beneficiaries of the estate of their late father. The primary asset of the estate was the decedent’s home. The respondent filed the will and a petition to probate the estate in Probate Court on November 14, 2001, and obtained the appointment of the co-executors. The respondent filed a petition for the sale of the real estate and the home was sold on April 26, 2002.

The respondent deposited the $292,434.54 net proceeds from the real estate sale into his IOLTA account on April 29, 2002. He issued a check payable to himself toward his legal fee for services to the estate, prior to billing the clients and without notifying them of the payment. A few days later, the respondent distributed most of the proceeds of the sale to the clients by sending each of them a check in the amount of $68,722.11 from his IOLTA account. The respondent retained $12,546.10 in his IOLTA account to cover future costs, expenses and legal fees.

The respondent thereafter failed to reply to the clients’ requests for a bill and a final account and failed to reply to numerous telephone messages from the clients between May and November 2002. The clients retained new counsel on November 15, 2002. Counsel filed her appearance in the Probate Court on December 10, 2002, and sent the respondent a withdrawal form. The respondent failed to return the form or to file a withdrawal of his appearance in the estate matter and failed to reply to a subsequent letter from successor counsel requesting the remainder of the estate proceeds, an accounting and the estate file. In addition, the respondent failed to comply with a court order issued in May 2003 requiring him to account for estate assets and deliver them to successor counsel.

In the interim, on March 31, and April 1, 2003, the respondent wrote two checks payable to himself from his IOLTA account, unrelated to any designated client matter. After payment of these checks, the balance in the respondent’s IOLTA account was reduced to $9,275.53, without disbursement of any part of the $12,546.10 in estate funds to or for the benefit of the decedent’s heirs.

By failing to account to his clients for the assets of the estate, failing to disburse all of the sale proceeds and intentionally misappropriating a portion of the sale proceeds for purposes unrelated to the estate, with intent to deprive the estate or its beneficiaries of the funds at least temporarily and with actual deprivation resulting, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(a)-(d) and 8.4(c), (h). By neglecting the estate and failing to adequately communicate with his clients, the respondent violated respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a) and 1.3 and 1.4. By failing to provide his clients with itemized bills for his services to the estate and by paying himself legal fees without billing the clients or notifying them of the payments, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(b) and (c). By failing to withdraw after being discharged by the clients and failing to provide successor counsel with his file, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(a), (d) and (e).

In the second matter, the respondent was retained by a widow in September 1999 to probate the estate of her late husband. The widow’s health then began to decline. At her request, the respondent prepared a power of attorney to one of her husband’s cousins, which the widow executed on October 1, 1999. Unknown to the widow or the cousin, the respondent never filed a petition to probate the estate of the husband.

The widow’s health further declined and, on February 13, 2002, the cousin retained the respondent to petition for her appointment as the widow’s guardian. The cousin signed the forms that were necessary for the guardianship petition on May 20, 2002. In September 2002, the cousin telephoned the respondent to request a status report on the matter. The respondent falsely informed her that the petition was to be heard on October 9, 2002. The cousin next spoke with the respondent by telephone on or about January 20, 2003. After this conversation, the respondent sent a package to her by courier. The package contained the same forms that the cousin had signed in May 2002. The cousin signed the new forms and returned them to the respondent the same day.

The respondent subsequently failed to reply to several inquiries from the cousin over the next several weeks. As a result, the cousin contacted the Probate Court and learned that the petition had not been filed. The respondent then falsely informed the cousin that a hearing would be held on the petition on March 21, 2003, but that the court had not yet assigned a docket number to the case.

The respondent filed the petition for guardianship on March 26, 2003. He filed an amended petition on May 15, 2003, in order to correct an error that he had made in the original petition. The court issued a citation returnable on June 24, 2003. The respondent failed to reply to the cousin’s inquiries after the return date. The cousin then learned from the Board of Bar Overseers website that the respondent had been administratively suspended from the practice of law on July 7, 2003.

By failing to probate the estate of the widow’s husband after being retained in 1999 to do so, failing to timely file a petition for guardianship of the widow and failing to bring the guardianship matter to a conclusion, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a) and 1.3. By failing to reply to inquiries from his client (the cousin) and failing to keep the client apprised about the status of the guardianship petition, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4. By misrepresenting to his client on two occasions that the petition for guardianship had been scheduled for a court hearing, when in fact the petition had not yet been filed, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c).

In the third matter, a client retained the respondent to represent her in bringing a claim against a flooring contractor pursuant to G.L. c. 93A. The client sent a letter to the respondent on May 20, 2003, discharging him as her attorney because he had failed to reply to letters and telephone messages from her in the months since he was retained. The client requested the return of her file. The respondent failed to reply to her letter and did not return the client’s documents. By failing to reply to his client’s telephone calls and letters, and failing to return her file, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.3, 1.4 and 1.16(d).

The respondent was also charged with failing to cooperate with Bar Counsel. The respondent effectively abandoned the practice of law in late 2002 or early 2003, without notifying his clients or otherwise making any efforts to protect their interests. Clients were generally unable to contact him and he failed to return their telephone calls or answer their letters. He then failed to reply to Bar Counsel’s inquiries regarding all of these matters and failed to appear at the Office of Bar Counsel pursuant to a subpoena on June 26, 2003.

Bar Counsel filed a petition for an administrative suspension in the Supreme Judicial Court on June 27, 2003, based on the respondent’s failure to cooperate. The Court issued an order of administrative suspension on July 7, 2003. The respondent did not thereafter seek reinstatement or otherwise comply with the requirements of S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 3. After his suspension on July 7, 2003, the respondent failed to send the required notices of his suspension to clients and third parties and failed to complete and file the required affidavit certifying compliance with the terms of the suspension.

On December 5, 2003, Bar Counsel filed a petition for contempt against the respondent with the Supreme Judicial Court. On January 16, 2004, the Court entered an order finding the respondent in contempt. The Court also appointed a commissioner to take control of the respondent’s trust accounts and remaining active files and to take appropriate action to protect the interests of clients.

By abandoning his law practice and failing to notify clients, courts, and other parties concerning his withdrawal as counsel; and further failing to return client files, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4, 1.16(c)-(e) and 8.4(h).

By failing to cooperate with Bar Counsel’s investigation and failing to appear pursuant to the subpoena that was issued for his appearance at the Office of Bar Counsel, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4 (g) and Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, § 3. By failing to comply with the July 7, 2003, order of administrative suspension, by failing to timely notify clients and third parties of his suspension and failing to file an affidavit of compliance, all necessitating the appointment of a commissioner, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(d) and (h).

Bar Counsel filed a petition for discipline on March 1, 2004. Because the respondent failed to file an answer to the petition, the charges were deemed admitted pursuant to Section 3.15(e) of the Rules of the Board of Bar Overseers. On June 14, 2004, the Board voted to recommend to the Supreme Judicial Court that the respondent be disbarred. On July 14, 2004, the Court 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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