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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2007-033

IN RE: DAVID LEE GRAHAM

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Spina on September 11, 2007.1

SUMMARY2

On April 26, 2007, bar counsel filed a petition for reciprocal discipline in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County based on an order of suspension entered on April 6, 2006, by the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The order permitted the respondent to apply for reinstatement after a period of thirteen months, commencing on May 30, 2006. The respondent did not report the order of suspension to Massachusetts bar counsel, nor did he provide a certified copy of the order of suspension, thereby violating S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 16(6).

The suspension by the United States District Court, District of Rhode Island was based on the following violations:

  1. Rules 5.5(a) and 8.4(a): The respondent engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by continuing to practice in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court after being administratively suspended by Rhode Island, between October 18, 2004, and October 14, 2005, during which time the respondent represented approximately 110 consumer clients before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and received approximately $112,500 in fees.
  2. Rules 1.1, 1.3, 5.5(a), and 8.4(a): The respondent agreed to represent a consumer debtor in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The respondent met with the client while he was administratively suspended. The respondent failed to advise the client that moneys she paid to her mother were a preference payment in violation of 11 U.S.C. § 547. After the trustee requested that documents regarding the transfer be given to him, the respondent failed to provide them to the trustee for over two months, with resulting harm to the client.
  3. Rules 1.1, 1.3, 5.5(a), and 8.4: On January 4, 2002, the respondent undertook to represent a husband and wife in a bankruptcy matter. After being paid $1,800 over the course of the next twelve months, the respondent did not take any action until approximately April 23, 2005, when he filed a joint Chapter 13 petition. At the time he filed the petition, the respondent was administratively suspended, and so he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. The respondent did not file a proposed Chapter 13 plan for the clients. As a result, the Court dismissed their bankruptcy on April 18, 2005, with a 180-day bar, prohibiting them from refilling. The respondent told the clients he would file an appeal, but failed to do so. In January of 2006, the respondent agreed to refund $1,800 to the clients. The respondent paid the clients $300, but did not refund $1,500 until after the U.S. Trustee initiated proceedings against him on March 28, 2006.
  4. Rules 1.1, 1.3, 5.5(a), and 8.4: On or about July 1, 2005, while he was administratively suspended, the respondent agreed to represent two clients in filing a Chapter 13. The respondent filed the Chapter 13 petition on July 1, 2005, and obtained confirmation of an amended plan on September 20, 2005. Thereafter the clients incurred additional financial problems and asked the respondent to seek to suspend the plan. The respondent did not file a motion to suspend plan payments, and did not oppose a motion by a mortgagee seeking relief from the stay, which motion was granted on December 29, 2000. The U.S. Trustee requested that the respondent disgorge $1,000 of his $2,000 fee, but the respondent did not do so until after the initiation of proceedings against him by the U.S. Trustee.

In aggravation, on July 26, 2004, the respondent had been admonished by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Rhode Island for failing to meet his professional and ethical obligations to his clients and to the Court.

On June 21, 2007, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County issued an Order of Notice directing the respondent to inform the Court within thirty days why the imposition of identical discipline would be unwarranted in Massachusetts. After hearing, the county court (Spina, J.) entered an order suspending the respondent from the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a period of one year retroactive to October 10, 2006, the date that Bar Counsel received the certified suspension order from the United States District Court, District of Rhode Island.


FOOTNOTES:

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 Supreme Judicial Court.



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