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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2008-012

IN RE: EUGENIA L. MADDEN

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Greaney on February 5, 2008, with an effective date of March 6, 2008.1

SUMMARY2

The respondent received a suspension from the practice of law for six months with readmission contingent upon curing an outstanding contempt judgment. The respondent delayed the administration of an estate, knowingly failed to comply with a court’s orders, and charged a clearly excessive fee.

In 1987, the client brought her will to the respondent for execution. The beneficiaries of the will were the client’s five siblings, and a sister was named executrix. However, in November 1994, at the client’s direction, the respondent prepared a codicil removing the sister as executrix and nominating the respondent as executrix.

In September 1996, the client died. The respondent filed a petition to probate the client’s will with the court, and the respondent was appointed executrix. In April 1997, the respondent filed an inventory with the court that valued the estate’s personal property at $316,872.60, and realty at $113,200. That same month, the client’s home sold and the respondent made distributions to the beneficiaries from those proceeds. However, the respondent failed to promptly disburse the remaining assets to the beneficiaries and failed to finalize the estate.

In March 1999, two beneficiaries filed a petition to render an account, and shortly thereafter the court issued an order requiring the respondent to render an account. The respondent filed the first account of the estate and reported that she had paid herself $26,314.30 for fees and expenses. These fees were clearly excessive and substantially exceeded fees customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services.

In January 2000, the two beneficiaries filed objections to the respondent’s first account for lack of a detailed accounting and for excessive fees. After a hearing in May 2002, the court issued a temporary order requiring the respondent to file a detailed record of time spent as executrix and a second account.

Between May and October 2002, the respondent knowingly failed to comply with three orders of the court requiring a detailed account. The respondent filed two affidavits citing her health problems as reason for not complying. After hearing in October 2002, the respondent was found in contempt and ordered to comply by December 2, 2002. On December 2, 2002, the respondent filed an amended first account, second account, and third and final account, and she served opposing counsel with a detailed bill.

In May 2004, a trial was held on the amended account. By judgment, the court disallowed $21,180 of the respondent’s $26,314.08 in fees and expenses, and ordered the respondent to pay the estate $21,180, plus interest, and to pay attorney’s fees in the amount of $8,563.04. Except for one payment of $30, the respondent has failed to make any payments.

The respondent’s conduct in delaying the administration of the estate violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.3; in knowingly failing to comply with the court’s orders violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c) and 8.4(d); in charging the estate a clearly excessive fee violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(a).

In mitigation, the respondent suffered from significant health problems during part of the relevant time period, from 1999 continuing to the present. In aggravation, the respondent has not complied with the judgment and order to reimburse the estate and pay attorney’s fees. She was adjudicated in contempt of that order on May 15, 2006. Her appeal of this contempt judgment to the Appeals Court, based upon her contention that she lacks the financial ability to pay any part of the judgment, is pending.

On March 30, 2006, the respondent filed with the Board of Bar Overseers a statement indicating her status as retired. On January 8, 2008, the parties filed a stipulation and jointly recommended a suspension from the practice of law for six months with readmission contingent upon curing the outstanding contempt judgment.

On January 14, 2008, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to recommend a suspension from the practice of law for six months with readmission contingent upon curing the outstanding contempt judgment. The Court so ordered on February 5, 2008.


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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