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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2009-027

IN RE: JOSEPH A. KUCHINSKI, JR.

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Spina on February 10, 2010.1

SUMMARY2

This attorney discipline matter involves three separate matters. In the first matter, the respondent was retained by two individuals on November 13, 2007, and paid $1500 to research and prepare a petition in bankruptcy. The respondent performed little work of substance for the clients and was discharged eight months later. The clients requested that the respondent return the unearned portion of the fee, but the respondent failed to do so despite several promises to provide the refund. The clients filed a request for investigation with bar counsel. The respondent intentionally failed without good cause to cooperate with bar counselís investigation and was administratively suspended on March 20, 2009. The respondentís fee was clearly excessive in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(a), and his failure to return the unearned portion of the fee violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(d). His failure to cooperate with bar counselís investigation violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.1(b), 8.4(d), (g), and (h).

In the second matter, the respondent failed to pay a bill for depositions that he had ordered. The transcription service filed a complaint in small claims court, the respondent failed to appear for trial, and a default judgment was entered against him. A payment review was scheduled, and the respondent was ordered by the court to appear and to pay the judgment. The respondent intentionally failed without good cause to appear at the payment review hearing and he never paid the judgment. The respondentís failure to comply with the courtís order to appear at the payment review hearing violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c) and 8.4 (d).

In the third matter, on June 1, 2009, the respondent notified bar counsel that he was abandoning his practice and leaving the state. The respondentís law practice consisted mainly of bankruptcy cases, and, at the time he abandoned his practice, he had several pending bankruptcy cases. The respondent failed to inform his clients that he was leaving the jurisdiction and quitting the practice of law. The respondent did not return files or unearned fees to his clients, nor did he take any steps to safeguard his clientsí files. The respondent also failed to obtain permission from the bankruptcy court to withdraw from the cases in which he had filed an appearance. The respondentís conduct in abandoning his clients without adequate notice to them, taking reasonable steps to protect their interests, and returning the unearned portion of the fees paid to him violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4, and 1.16(d). The respondentís conduct in failing to secure permission of the bankruptcy court to withdraw from representation violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(c) and 8.4(d).

On June 4, 2009, bar counsel filed with the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County a petition for the respondentís temporary suspension pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 4:01, ß 12A. The county court ordered the respondent to appear before the court on June 24, 2009. The respondent intentionally failed without good cause to appear before the court. On July 15, 2009, the county court entered an order of immediate temporary suspension and appointed a commissioner to secure the respondentís clientsí files, protect the clientsí interests, and assume control of the respondentís IOLTA account. The respondentís intentional failure without good cause to comply with the courtís order to appear at the show cause hearing violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c) and 8.4 (d).

The respondent was admitted to practice on December 20, 1978, and had no record of discipline. Bar counsel filed and served a petition for discipline on October 9, 2009. In aggravation, the respondent failed to file an answer to the petition and was defaulted.

On January 11, 2010, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to recommend that the respondent be suspended for a period of eighteen months for his misconduct. On February 10, 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County (Spina, J.) entered an order suspending the respondent from the practice of law for a period of eighteen months, effective on the entry date of the order.


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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