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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2004-046

IN RE: KATHLEEN J. WOOD

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Ireland on May 24, 2004, with an effective date of June 23, 2004.1

SUMMARY2

The respondent was admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth on December 18, 1985. In about January 2000, a corporation engaged the respondent to represent it in a civil matter arising out of an injury sustained by a woman on April 2, 1997, when she slipped and fell on an accumulation of ice and snow outside the entrance to the building occupied by the client. The woman had instituted a civil action against the client and others in Plymouth Superior Court on August 16, 1999. On January 27, 2000, the respondent filed an appearance on behalf of the client in the matter, and on February 7, 2000, she filed an answer on behalf of the client. After attending a deposition of the client on May 8, 2000, the respondent took no further action of substance in the matter.

On June 17, 2002, the Court sent to counsel of record a notice requiring the parties to appear for a pre-trial conference on September 26, 2002. Although the respondent received the notice, she did not notify her client that a pre-trial conference had been scheduled, and that the client could be defaulted for failure to appear. Neither the respondent nor the client appeared in Court for the pre-trial conference, and the Court defaulted the client for failure to appear. After the default order issued on October 1, 2002, the respondent did not notify the client that the client had been defaulted for failure to appear at the pre-trial conference, and she did not take any action to attempt to remove the default.

On January 7, 2003 and February 4, 2003, the Court sent notices to counsel of record to appear on February 11, 2003, for a hearing on assessment of damages against the client. Although the respondent received the notices of hearing, she did not notify the client of the scheduled hearing. The client learned of the hearing through another source.

On February 11, 2003, the respondent did not appear at the hearing on assessment of damages. The client appeared in Court by herself, and notified the Court that the respondent had not kept her informed of the status of the case. The Court entered an order specifically requiring the respondent to be present for a status conference on February 28, 2003, to consider the issue of the clientís counsel. Although respondent received the order directing her to appear for the status conference, she did not appear. The client appeared and advised the Court that she had been unable to make contact with the respondent. On February 28, 2003, the Court struck the respondentís appearance for the client, and gave the client until March 24, 2003, for a new attorney to file an appearance. On March 21, 2003, successor counsel filed a notice of appearance on behalf of the client, and on April 3, 2003, the Court removed the default order as to the client.

The matter came to the attention of the bar counsel in March 2003. The respondent did not respond to Bar Counselís letters requesting her to file a written response to the allegations of misconduct. On April 26, 2003, the Board of Bar Overseers issued a subpoena requiring the respondent to appear for questioning on May 14, 2003, and to produce documents. The respondent failed to comply with the subpoena.

On May 1, 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an order administratively suspending the respondent from the practice of law pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 4:01, Sec. 3(2), based on her failure to cooperate in Bar Counselís investigation. By June 1, 2003, thirty days from the entry of the administrative suspension order, the respondent had not been reinstated, and became subject to the requirements of the order and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, ß 17, including withdrawal from legal matters, resignation of fiduciary appointments, and notification of clients, courts, and others of the suspension. The respondent did not file an affidavit of compliance with the Office of Bar Counsel.

By failing to appear at the pre-trial conference and the assessment of damages hearing, and by failing to notify her client of the scheduled court hearings, the respondent failed to provide competent representation to her client, to seek the lawful objectives of her client, to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing her client, and to adequately communicate with her client, in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, and 1.4(a) and (b). By withdrawing from her clientís representation without obtaining permission from the tribunal and without taking reasonable steps to protect her client's interests, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(c) and (d). By failing to appear in Court for the February 28, 2003 status conference when ordered to do so, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c) and 8.4(d). By failing to cooperate with Bar Counselís investigation, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.1(b) and 8.4(d) and (g). By failing to comply with the terms of the Supreme Judicial Courtís May 1, 2003 administrative suspension order, the respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(d).

On January 27, 2004, Bar Counsel filed a petition for discipline against the respondent. The respondent failed to file an answer to the petition or otherwise to cooperate in the disciplinary process and, pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 4:01, ß 8(3), the allegations were therefore deemed admitted. The respondentís failure to participate in the disciplinary proceedings was considered as a matter in aggravation. On April 12, 2004, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to recommend to the court that the respondent be suspended for a period of one year and one day. On May 24, 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County (Ireland, J.) 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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