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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2008-108

IN RE: NEIL E. ROBERTS

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Cowin on June 2, 2009.1
(S.J.C. Judgment of Reinstatement entered by Justice Cowin on March 30, 2010.)

SUMMARY2

On January 25, 2008, the respondent entered his appearance in the Appeals Court on behalf of a plaintiff/appellant in an appeal of an adverse judgment entered against the plaintiff in the Land Court. The dispute concerned whether a Town timely exercised a right of first refusal on land that the plaintiff intended to purchase. Although the plaintiff had meritorious grounds to appeal, the respondent took no action to prosecute the appeal, and on March 26, 2008, the appeal was dismissed. At no time did the respondent seek permission from the Appeals Court to withdraw. On July 14, 2008, the respondent intentionally misrepresented to the plaintiff that he would move to vacate the dismissal and would submit a brief appealing the decision. The respondent thereafter took no further action to vacate the dismissal or prosecute the appeal.

The respondentís failure to diligently pursue an appeal that he undertook to pursue, his failure to carry out his clientís lawful directives, and his misrepresentation of his intentions, were in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3 and 8.4(c). The respondentís termination of his representation without notice to the tribunal and without taking reasonable steps to protect his client was in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(c) and (d).

In addition, the respondent did not respond to numerous correspondence from bar counsel, and on September 25, 2008, bar counsel issued a subpoena requesting that the respondent appear before bar counsel with his file and records on November 3, 2008. The respondent failed to appear before bar counsel or provide any good cause for his failure to appear.

The respondent was administratively suspended from the practice of law effective November 7, 2008. The order of suspension required, among other matters, that the respondent file an affidavit of compliance. On December 16, 2008, bar counsel sent notice of the order of suspension and compliance forms to the respondent requesting a return of the executed compliance forms by January 5, 2009. The respondent did not respond by January 5, 2009. However, on February 2, 2009, the respondent appeared before bar counsel, filed an answer to the grievance and filed compliance forms. Thereafter, the respondent cooperated with bar counsel.

The respondentís failure to cooperate with an investigation of bar counsel, his failure to produce documents requested by bar counsel and his failure to timely comply with the requirements of his suspension, were in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c), 8.4(d), (g) and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, ß 3.

In substantial aggravation, the respondent received an admonition in 2007 for neglect at the trial level of the very same case that he neglected in this case on appeal. There were no facts in mitigation.

On April 7, 2009, bar counsel filed a petition for discipline and answer and stipulation of the parties with the Board of Bar Overseers. On May 11, 2009, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to recommend to the Court that the respondent be suspended for six months retroactive to February 2, 2009, the date of the respondentís compliance with the order of his administrative suspension. On June 2, 2009, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County so ordered.


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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