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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2004-032

IN RE: DANIEL THOMAS SHEEHAN, JR.

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Spina on May 4, 2004, with an effective date of June 3, 2004.1

SUMMARY2

On June 15, 1994, the respondent was retained to represent two clients in claims for personal injuries and property damage to their automobile as a result of a three-car accident. The respondent took little or no action of substance to investigate or advance the clients’ potential claims until June 13, 1997, when he filed an action in Norfolk Superior Court. The case was dismissed on September 22, 1997 due to the respondent’s failure to make service of process. Although the respondent received notice of the dismissal, he took no action to preserve the clients’ claims and failed to notify the clients of the dismissal.

Sometime before November 1997, by telephone the respondent intentionally misrepresented to one of the clients that an offer of $5000 in settlement had been made, but that he had rejected it on her behalf. In fact, the respondent had no negotiations with anyone concerning settlement of the case. In the winter of 1998 and the spring of 1999, the respondent told the client that her case should be settled by the summer. He also told her that he was bringing an action against the operator of another car involved in the accident. The respondent knew when he made these statements that they were false. He knew that the case had been dismissed, that he was not negotiating the case, and that he intended to take no further action on the client’s behalf to further her claims.

Sometime before August 2000, the respondent’s business telephone was disconnected. The respondent did not furnish the client with a telephone number where he could be reached. On August 7, 2000, one of the clients called the clerk’s office at Norfolk Superior Court and learned that the case had been dismissed due to the respondent’s failure to make service of process.

The respondent’s conduct in neglecting the clients’ case; failing to communicate with the clients, including failing to notify them that their case had been dismissed; failing to carry out his contract of employment, failing to represent the clients zealously, and prejudicing the clients during the representation violated Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3), and Canon Seven, DR 7-101(A)(1), (2), and (3), for conduct before January 1, 1998. For conduct on and after January 1, 1998, the respondent’s conduct violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a), 1.3, and 1.4(a) and (b).

The respondent’s intentional misrepresentation to the client prior to January 1, 1998, violated Canon One, DR 1-102(A)(4) and (6). The respondent’s misrepresentations to the client on and after January 1, 1998, violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4(b) and 8.4(c) and (h).

The respondent’s conduct in ending his representation without notice to the clients and without taking reasonable steps to protect their interests violated Canon Two, Disciplinary rule 2-110(A)(2).

In a second matter, a client hired the respondent to defend him in October 1996 in a claim for personal injuries pending in Boston Municipal Court. Suit had been brought against the client as owner of real property where the plaintiff had been injured. In fact, the client did not own the property on the date the plaintiff was injured. A default judgment had entered against the client, and the respondent was hired to remove the default and otherwise defend the client in the case.

In July 1997, the client paid the respondent $100 to remove the default. The respondent prepared a motion to remove the default, but he did not file the motion or otherwise take any action of substance to remove the default judgment. The court set a hearing date for assessment of damages and the respondent received notice of the date in due course. The respondent neither notified the client nor attended the hearing. Damages were assessed, judgment entered, and execution issued against the client. The respondent received notice of these actions in due course, but failed to notify the client.

In November 2000, the client received a summons for a supplementary process proceeding to enforce the judgment, thereby learning that the respondent had not removed the default judgment and that a judgment had entered against him for damages. In February 2001, the client appeared pro se in Boston Municipal Court and vacated the judgment.

The respondent’s conduct in neglecting a legal matter; failing to notify the client of the status of the case; failing to carry out a contract of employment; and prejudicing or damaging a client during representation violated Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3), and Canon Seven DR 7-101(A)(1), (2), and (3), for conduct prior to January 1, 1998. For conduct on and after January 1, 1998, the respondent’s conduct violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a), 1.3 and Mass R. Prof. C. 1.4.

In a third matter, another client paid the respondent $500 to file a petition in bankruptcy in October 1998. After November 1998, the respondent failed to communicate with the client. The client was unable to contact the respondent because the respondent’s telephone was no longer in service. In December 2000, the client learned that the respondent’s business telephone was disconnected and filed a request for investigation with the Office of the Bar Counsel. In January 2001, bar counsel sent the request for investigation to the respondent with a demand that he provide a full response and explanation for his conduct within twenty days. The respondent received this correspondence in due course.

In about January 2001, the respondent filed a joint bankruptcy petition for the client and the client’s sister. The petition was not in proper form because unmarried individuals were not eligible to file a joint petition. The Chapter 7 trustee filed a motion to dismiss the petition based on the debtors’ ineligibility to file a joint petition. The respondent did not notify the client that the trustee had moved to dismiss the petition, and he took no steps to oppose the motion or to correct the deficiencies in the petition.

In April 2001, the bankruptcy court allowed the trustee’s motion to dismiss the client’s petition. The respondent received notice of the dismissal in due course. He did not notify the client that the bankruptcy petition had been dismissed.

The respondent’s conduct in failing to communicate with the client, filing an improper joint petition for bankruptcy, failing to seek the lawful objectives of the client, failing to act with diligence, and in not keeping the client informed of the status of the case violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, and 1.4.

From September of 2000 through January of 2001, the respondent failed to respond to correspondence from bar counsel requesting information about the above three matters.

The respondent’s failure to respond to inquiries from bar counsel and, without good cause, to cooperate in bar discipline investigations violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.1(b), 8.4(d) and (g) and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 3.

The respondent was administratively suspended from the practice of law on February 13, 2001 due to his failure to file the annual registration form and pay the annual registration fee to the Board of Bar Overseers. The respondent became subject to the requirements of S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 17, thirty days after his administrative suspension. Among other things, the respondent was required by the order and by S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 17(1)(c) and (5), to notify his clients of his suspension, file an affidavit of compliance with the court and with bar counsel, and immediately cease the practice of law. The respondent failed to comply with the rule by, among other things, failing to notify his clients of his suspension and continuing to practice law.

The respondent’s continued practice of law included the following matters. In February 2002, the respondent appeared in Brockton District Court on behalf of an unmarried couple in a summary process action. In April 2002, the respondent then appeared in Quincy District Court on behalf of the male client to seek a restraining order against the female client. In May 2002, the respondent appeared in Plymouth Probate and Family Court on behalf of the female client in a divorce action.

The respondent’s conduct in failing to comply with the order of administrative suspension and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 17, by continuing to practice law and to hold himself out as a lawyer while suspended violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c), 5.5(a); Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c), (d) and (h); and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 3(1) and §17.

The respondent’s conduct in failing to abide by the order of administrative suspension and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 17, by failing to give notice of his suspension to his clients, the courts, and opposing counsel and by failing to take the other actions required by the order and the rule violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c), and 8.4(d) and (h).

Bar Counsel commenced disciplinary proceedings before the Board of Bar Overseers by filing and serving a Petition for Discipline on November 14, 2003. The respondent did not file an answer and was defaulted on December 16, 2003. On March 8, 2004, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to suspend the respondent for three years. On March 25, 2004, the Board of Bar Overseers filed an information with the county court recommending that the respondent be suspended for three years. On May 4, 2004, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County (Spina, J.) entered an order suspending the respondent for three years, effective thirty days from the date of the order.

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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