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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2008-047

IN RE: WILLIAM T. JEBB, II

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Spina on September 26, 2008, with an effective date of October 27, 2008.1

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Bar counsel has filed a petition for reciprocal discipline of Attorney William T. Jebb, II, who was suspended from the practice of law for a period of six months by the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, 4th Department, for misconduct including conversion of client funds and other trust account improprieties. Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, § 16(3), provides that this court: "may impose the identical discipline unless . . . (c) the misconduct established is not adequately sanctioned by the same discipline in this Commonwealth." See Matter of Lebbos, 423 Mass. 753, 755 (1996) ("[W]e repose confidence in and accord deference to the lawful procedures [and decisions] of our sister States . . . [b]ut such deference does not automatically lead to reciprocity").

The presumptive sanction in the Commonwealth for an attorney's conversion of client funds causing temporary deprivation, as here, is an indefinite suspension or disbarment. See Matter of Schoepfer, 426 Mass. 183 (1997). We have shown deference to the sanction imposed in another jurisdiction by moderating the presumptive action. See Matter of Watt, 430 Mass. 232 (1999).

The respondent was admitted to practice in 1986. In the summer of 2004, without warning, the law firm in which he practiced in New York disbanded. The respondent was devastated both financially and emotionally. The New York Supreme Court found the following facts in mitigation:

"We have considered the matters submitted by respondent in mitigation, including that the misconduct was confined to a one-year period during which he suffered from severe depression. Additionally, we have considered that respondent made full restitution to his clients and has expressed extreme remorse for his misconduct. Finally, we note that respondent has a previously unblemished record that includes extensive pro bono work."
I believe there is some similarity between the circumstances here and those in Matter of Guidry, 15 Mass. Att'y Discipline Rep. 255 (1999), where discipline was moderated to thirty months based on a causal relation between the respondent's severe financial and emotional distress and his misconduct.

In consideration of our strong interest in protecting clients against conversion of their funds by their attorney, the mitigating circumstances of severe financial and emotional distress, and deference to the decision of the New York Supreme Court, I hereby order that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of thirty months.


FOOTNOTES:

1 The complete Order of the Court is available by contacting the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County.



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