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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2008-057

IN RE: JAMES A. COUTURE

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Greaney on September 2, 2008.1
(S.J.C. Judgment of Reinstatement with Conditions entered by Justice Gants on January 05, 2011.)

SUMMARY2

The respondent failed to file an answer to a petition for discipline and was defaulted. The petition charged him with lack of diligence in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.3; failure to communicate with clients in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4(a); and conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(h) in that he effectively abandoned four separate clients by ceasing to provide services to them and by stopping communication with them. The respondent had been appointed by the Committee for Public Counsel Services to represent these clients, and CPCS was forced to appoint new counsel.

In addition, the petition charged the respondent with failure to cooperate with bar counsel in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.1(b) and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 3. Initially, he failed to respond to bar counsel’s letters and was placed on administrative suspension pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 3(2). After being notified of the administrative suspension, he contacted bar counsel, discussed the complaints then pending, and promised to provide further information. On the basis of this initial effort at cooperation, the administrative suspension was terminated. But the respondent did not provide the information promised and failed to reply to further communications sent to him by bar counsel. On bar counsel’s petition, an order of temporary suspension pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 12A, was entered.

By failing to answer the petition for discipline, the respondent admitted the charges in the petition. When he was notified of his default and of his right to make a statement in mitigation of the charges, he reported that he was currently residing in a transitional living facility and that he expected to begin inpatient treatment for alcoholism within a few weeks.

The board recommended that the respondent be suspended for a year and a day. By order dated September 2, 2008, the Court imposed the recommended suspension, effective immediately.


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 filed with the Supreme Judicial Court.



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