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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-84-024

IN RE: MICHAEL G. SITES

S.J.C. Order of Reinstatement entered by Justice Cordy on August 25, 2003 1

HEARING PANEL REPORT

I. Introduction

On February 13, 1987, Petitioner Michael G. Sites submitted an affidavit in lieu of disbarment as a member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in response to four complaints filed by the Office of Bar Counsel as described more completely below. On August 2, 1989, the Supreme Judicial Court (Abrams, J.) entered an order accepting Mr. Sites’ affidavit.

On July 25, 2001, Mr. Sites filed this petition for reinstatement to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (“Petition”). In accordance with Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, § 18(2), an attorney who has been suspended for an indefinite period may not petition for reinstatement until five years from the effective date of the order of suspension. Mr. Sites waited more than ten years to seek reinstatement. He has filed the necessary applications, paid the costs associated with the application, and provided the Board with evidence that he received a passing grade on the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination

A hearing on the Petition was held on November 19 and December 10, 2001, before a Panel consisting of M. Ellen Carpenter (Chair), Mitchell H. Kaplan and Robert J. Guttentag. The Panel heard testimony from Mr. Sites, Rev. Paul Caron, Donald J. Kaiser, Esq., Hon. Michael Creedon, Daniel O’Connor, Esq., John McClusky, Esq. and Kevin Paicos, Town Administrator for the Town of Easton, and received into evidence 22 exhibits (“Ex. “), as well as Mr. Sites’ Petition (“Petition”) and Reinstatement Questionnaire (“Questionnaire”).

On March 29, 2002, Mr. Sites filed a Petition to Supplement the Record (“First Petition to Supplement”), which was allowed by the Chair on April 9, 2002. Mr. Sites provided evidence that he had come to a settlement agreement with the heirs of Alma Grinnell to settle a default judgment entered against him, as more fully discussed below.

On September 26, 2002, Mr. Sites filed a Second Petition to Supplement the Record (“Second Petition to Supplement”), which was allowed by the Chair. Mr. Sites provided evidence that he had consummated the settlement with Mrs. Grinnell’s heirs.

On April 14, 2003, Mr. Sites filed a Third Petition to Supplement the Record (“Third Petition to Supplement”), which was allowed by the Chair, over the opposition of Bar Counsel, on May 6, 2003. Mr. Sites provided evidence that he had reached an agreement with Harold Baynes to pay a judgment, as described more fully herein, and that as of April 9, 2003, he was current on the payments.

In consideration of the testimony exhibits and updated evaluation, the Panel recommends the Petition be allowed.

II. Findings of Fact

Background

Mr. Sites was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, on October 26, 1953. Tr. 1:14-16. He has been a resident of Easton, Massachusetts, since July 1987. Questionnaire, p. 5. He graduated second in his class from Brockton High School and attended Dartmouth College on a scholarship, graduating in 1975. Tr. 1:16. Mr. Sites attended New England School of Law, graduating in 1978. Tr. 1:16-17. He was admitted to the bar of the Commonwealth on December 22, 1978. Ex. 1.

In 1978, Mr. Sites began practicing law at the offices of Keith, Reed, Wheatley & Furness in Brockton, where he had worked during law school. Tr. 1:17. In 1981, he established his own practice. Tr. 1:17. In 1982, he became an assistant city solicitor for the City of Brockton, a part-time position paying approximately $15,000 per year. He worked in that position until January 1984. Tr. 1:18, 31.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Mr. Sites began drinking heavily. Tr. 1:26. He testified that his mother was an alcoholic and often embarrassed him in front of his friends. Tr. 1:14-15. By the early 1980s, Mr. Sites drank on a daily basis, beginning with a few drinks at lunch. Tr. 1:27. He then typically continued drinking most of the afternoon at a golf club in Brockton, and then drinking until he went to bed. Id. Mr. Sites’ drinking problem worsened after his mother’s death from alcohol-related causes in November 1983. Tr. 1:27-28.

Mr. Sites’ drinking had a destructive impact on his legal practice, as he was working two or three hours a day “at most” by 1983. Tr. 1:26, 28. He neglected cases and his office was in a constant state of disarray. Tr. 1:28.

During this period, Mr. Sites convinced himself it was very important to exhibit the outward trappings of success. Tr. 1:28. Those who knew him at the time describe him as “pompous, arrogant and narcisstic [sic]” (Ex. 21), “very arrogant” (Ex. 8), and a person “who had a very high opinion of himself” who would “go around town with a big cigar in his mouth.” McClusky testimony, Tr. 1:114.

Misuse of Client Funds

In the early 1980s, Mr. Sites misused funds of at least four clients. He testified that he used the misappropriated funds chiefly for “personal expenses, bar tabs at the golf club, expenses for maintaining the kind of lifestyle I thought was appropriate.” Tr. 1:28.

Grinnell

As detailed in his Affidavit of Resignation in Lieu of Disbarment (Ex. 1), and in his testimony before the Panel, in January 1983, Mr. Sites misappropriated a $2,500 tort settlement on behalf of Alma Grinnell. He did not tell Mrs. Grinnell the funds had been received. Instead, he deposited the check in his office account and used all of the proceeds for various personal and office expenses. Ex. 1; Tr. 1:20.

On March 30, 1983, in response to inquiries from Mrs. Grinnell’s daughter, Norma Atherton, regarding the status of the matter, Mr. Sites wrote: “I have written the insurance company to find out what the delay is in forwarding the draft, and expect to hear from them within the next few days.” This was false. In June 1983, Ms. Atherton requested that Mr. Sites forward the file to her so it could be turned over to other counsel. Mr. Sites did not respond to this or to a subsequent letter from Ms. Atherton in July 1983. He also did not respond to numerous inquiries from the Office of Bar Counsel regarding the matter. Ex. 1, Tr. 1:20.

Ferrone

In January 1983, Mr. Sites received $29,500 from Raymond Ferrone with instructions to use the funds to satisfy a debt secured by a mortgage on certain real estate owned by Mr. Ferrone. Ex. 1; Tr. 1:21. Mr. Sites instead deposited the funds in his conveyancing account and used them for his own purposes. He then made monthly payments to the mortgagee, purportedly on behalf of Mr. Ferrone. Tr. 1:21-22.

On or about July 14, 1983, Mr. Sites represented Mr. Ferrone in connection with the purchase of three lots on Battles Street in Brockton. Mr. Sites deposited all of the proceeds due from the buyer to his conveyancing account. From those funds, Mr. Sites was to pay taxes due to the City of Brockton in the amount of $11,920.15. Instead, he converted the funds to other purposes and delivered to the City Treasurer an unfunded check, which was returned. Ex. 1; Tr. 1:21.

On December 1, 1983, Mr. Ferrone gave Mr. Sites $3,261.87 to be applied to unpaid taxes on property on Torrey Street in Brockton. By December 8, 1983, Mr. Sites had used almost the entire amount for other purposes and his unfunded check to the City Treasurer was returned. Ex. 1; Tr. 1:21.

On December 13, 1983, Mr. Ferrone gave Mr. Sites $3,276.95, of which $2,388.75 was to be applied to unpaid taxes on property on Cross Street in Brockton. Mr. Sites’ unfunded check to the City Treasurer resulted in an overdraft of $1,903.98 when it was presented for payment on December 19, 1983. Ex. 1; Tr. 1:21.

On March 8, 1984, Mr. Sites represented Robert and Carolyn Pohl in connection with the purchase of real estate. Mr. Sites used $22,000 of the funds entrusted to him by Mr. and Mrs. Pohl to pay Mr. Ferrone in part for the conversion of his funds described above. Mr. Sites delivered an unfunded check in the amount of $21,566.90 to the party selling the property to the Pohls. Ex. 1; Tr. 1:22-23.

Zager

In addition to the incidents that led to his resignation in lieu of disbarment, Mr. Sites also engaged in misconduct with respect to settlement funds due to Arthur Zager, on behalf of his son, Scott. Tr. 2:67. Mr. Sites settled a personal injury case for Scott, who had been involved in an automobile accident, for the entire policy amount. Tr. 2:68. Mr. Zager refused to accept the settlement, despite Mr. Sites’ recommendation.

Mr. Sites procured the father’s release through trickery. Id. He met with Mr. Zager on October 25, 1983, and gave him a number of documents to sign. Mr. Zager signed the documents, which he thought were releases for medical information. Unbeknownst to Mr. Zager, Mr. Sites included a general release form to settle the claim in the pile of documents. On the same day, Mr. Sites sent the general release to Travelers Insurance (“Travelers”) and requested Travelers to send him a check for $20,000. Ex. 15; Tr. 2:67-70.

On December 19, 1983, Travelers issued two checks to Mr. Sites, payable to Mr. Sites and Mr. Zager. Mr. Sites forged Mr. Zager’s endorsement on the checks and deposited the checks into his personal account which he used for his own purposes. Ex. 15; Tr. 1:24-26, 2:67-70.

Treatment

On March 7, 1984, Mr. Sites went to a counseling center in Brockton because he felt he needed help. Tr. 1:28. One of the counselors at the center secured Mr. Sites’ admission to Fuller Memorial Hospital (“Fuller”). Tr. 1:29. While enroute to Fuller, Mr. Sites convinced his father and girlfriend, now wife, to stop at the golf club so he could tell his friends he would not be joining them. In fact, he had one last drink before going to Fuller. Tr. 1:30. Mr. Sites stopped practicing law on March 8, 1984, the day he was admitted to Fuller.

Mr. Sites received in-patient treatment at Fuller for approximately six weeks. Tr. 1:31. After his discharge, he received counseling and began to regularly attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the Brockton area. Tr. 1:32. He also began to attend Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (“LCL”) recovery meetings. Tr. 1:37-38. Mr. Sites eventually lost his house, which he turned over to Mr. Ferrone in partial repayment of the funds Mr. Sites had misappropriated from him. Mr. Sites began living with his father. Tr. 1:33; 1:23-24.

The IRS filed tax liens against Mr. Sites for 1985 and 1986, which were discharged in 1991. Tr. 2:11-12.

Rehabilitation

Mr. Sites is actively involved with the Catholic Church. After he was discharged from Fuller, he and his future wife began attending Mass together. He also began attending noon Mass almost every day. Tr. 1:38. After he and his wife married and moved to Easton, Mr. Sites became very involved at the Immaculate Conception Church. He initially began teaching confirmation classes and later became a lector and ultimately a Eucharistic Minister. Tr. 1:40-41.

Mr. Sites also served as a teacher with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, through which those born into other faiths become full members of the Catholic Church. He became a Catechist (spiritual teacher) and ultimately became the lead Catechist. Tr. 1:41.

In approximately 1996, Mr. Sites began helping out in the parish office, doing the scheduling for assignments of ministries at Mass, including assignment of lectors and eucharistic ministers. Tr. 1:41; 1:50. Father Caron, who was the assistant pastor at Immaculate Conception from 1988-1996, testified about Mr. Sites’ involvement in parish affairs, with the Cursillo and with the Church’s Stewardship Program. Tr. 1:47, 50.

Mr. Sites has also supported a charity golf tournament for the Holy Cross Fathers of Stonehill College. Tr. 1:95, 106. Mr. and Mrs. Sites’ tax returns show they never gave less than 10% and at times gave as much as 25% of their income to charity. Questionnaire, Ex. A.

Mr. Sites has also participated in Christian Renewal Retreats at Stonehill College and, as noted above, has participated in the Cursillo. Tr. 2:5-6. During the Cursillo, Mr. Sites has acknowledged his problems as an attorney and with alcohol. Tr. 1:105. Father Caron used one of Mr. Sites’ talks at a Cursillo about his problems and recovery from alcoholism as the basis for an Easter Sunday homily. Tr. 1:49.

Mr. Sites is a founding member of the Board of Directors of My Brother’s Keeper, a Catholic ministry that delivers financial assistance, food, furniture and Christmas gifts to the needy. Tr. 1:106, 116-117; 2-8. He volunteers his time to work at the warehouse, make deliveries and supervise student volunteers. Tr. 1:48-49; 2:8-9. The Panel reviewed a letter of support attached to the Petition from the president of My Brother’s Keeper attesting to Mr. Sites’ activities. Petition, Ex. K.

Mr. Sites has also volunteered his time at Mainspring House, a homeless shelter in Brockton. For a number of years, he spent one day a month there doing tasks such as cooking and serving meals. He also prepared written materials for the volunteers, and instituted procedures for purchasing supplies. Tr. 2:9. Each year, Mr. and Mrs. Sites serve Christmas breakfast to the residents of the shelter. Tr. 2:10.

Civic Activities

Since 1990, Mr. Sites has served as an unpaid voluntary member of the Town of Easton Conservation Commission, and has been the elected chairman since July, 1994. The Conservation Commission regulates and enforces the Wetlands Protection Act within the Town of Easton, as well as the Town’s by-laws on wetlands protection. Tr. 2:48. The Conservation Commission conducts public hearings on filings and may take enforcement action when violations occur. Tr. 2:48-49.

On several occasions as a result of his work on the Conservation Commission it has become public knowledge that Mr. Sites resigned in lieu of disbarment as a result of his misappropriation of client funds. Tr. 2:50. As an example, Mr. Sites described a situation with a developer named Matthew Welch who, during a meeting with Mr. Sites, produced a number of letters he proposed to mail to various individuals detailing Mr. Sites’ alleged unfitness for public service based on his prior disciplinary history. Mr. Welch then demanded that Mr. Sites falsely state that another Commissioner had altered some minutes of Commission meetings and that Mr. Sites provide him with information to be used against Commissioners Mr. Welch wished to see removed. Instead, Mr. Sites brought the information to Mr. Paicos, the town administrator. Tr. 2:51; 2:93-95.

Mr. Welch did send the letters regarding Mr. Sites’ disciplinary history. Tr. 2:98. Mr. Sites publicly acknowledged his disciplinary history. Tr. 2:53. Mr. Paicos testified he was “impressed beyond words with [Mr. Sites’] dignity, with his bearing, and most importantly, with his absolute unwillingness to surrender one iota” to Mr. Welch’s demands. Tr. 2:95.

The Panel received several letters from present and former colleagues on the Conservation Commission and residents of the Town stating that Mr. Sites has a reputation for personal integrity and public service. See, Exs. C, L, N, O, Q, W, AA, and BB.

Professional Activities and Legal Education

Mr. Sites worked as a title examiner at Hennessey & McInnis from 1985 to 1990, and from 1990 to present has worked as an independent title examiner hired by various attorneys on a contract basis. Tr. 1:36; 2:20-21. He maintains professional liability insurance for that work; no claims have been brought against him. Tr. 2:21.

The Panel reviewed more than a dozen letters of recommendation from members of the bar commending his work. In addition, Mr. O’Connor, Mr. McClusky and Judge Creedon testified about the quality of Mr. Sites’ work. Judge Creedon, who used Mr. Sites’ services while in private practice, testified that Mr. Sites’ title examinations were “outstanding. … He knew the law. He knew real estate law very well.” Tr. 1:99.

Mr. Sites has also:

a. Taken the Professional Responsibility course at the New England School of Law, and received a grade of B+. Tr. 2:20.

b. Passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. Questionnaire, Ex. D.

c. Taken the MCLE Practical Skills Course in 1997. Tr. 2:20.

d. Obtained written and taped materials from MCLE relative to various issues, primarily in the area of property law, but also on District Court practice. Tr. 2:53.

e. Subscribed to and regularly read Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Tr. 2:53, 55.

As noted above, Mr. Sites is a member of the Easton Conservation Commission. In that capacity, he receives a monthly newsletter that reports on legal developments in wetlands and environmental law. Tr. 2:53-54. He has attended a number of workshops sponsored by the MACC and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. He has taught courses for MACC on issues relative to being a member of a conservation commission, which required him to read publications on law-related topics in order to prepare his remarks. Tr. 2:54.

Judge Creedon testified about Mr. Sites’ knowledge of conservation law and said he frequently consulted with Mr. Sites on wetlands issues while a state legislator and private practitioner. Tr. 1:95. Easton Town Administrator Paicos also testified about Mr. Sites’ service on the ECC and said that other members “defer greatly to Mike and his judgment.” Tr. 2:91. The Panel also reviewed letters attached to the Petition attesting to Mr. Sites’ expertise on wetlands issues and environmental law. See Exs. L, N, and AA to the Petition.

Opposition to Reinstatement

The Panel received letters opposing Mr. Sites’ reinstatement from Norma Hunt, formerly Norma Atherton, Mrs. Grinnell’s daughter (Ex. 8) and from Linda Masabny, another of Mrs. Grinnell’s daughters (Ex. 21). Ms. Masabny stated that it is her “belie[f] that you cannot rehabilitate someone born with such capabilities.”

The Panel also received a letter opposing reinstatement from Leslie Holbrook, who was involved in the Ferrone matter. Ex. 18.

Restitution and Repayment

The Panel took evidence on several restitution and repayment issues as described below.

Travelers Insurance Company

Travelers Insurance Company (“Travelers”) paid $20,000 to the Zager family as a result of Mr. Sites’ misappropriation of the settlement check. It thereafter obtained a judgment against Mr. Sites and brought a supplementary process action to collect the debt which, with interest, totaled approximately $36,000. Ex. 16; Tr. 2:13. Between 1992 and 2001, Albert Grady, counsel for Travelers, would “periodically” – once or twice a year, sometimes more frequently - contact Mr. Sites about payment. Tr. 2:83. Mr. Sites responded to those contacts by letter, and would typically provide some payment. Id.

Between 1992 and October 2000, Mr. Sites paid Travelers approximately $3,100 in installments. These installment payments were made intermittently. Ex. 17; Tr. 2:72-78. In October 2001, Mr. Sites borrowed $26,000 from his aunt, and paid that sum to Travelers in full settlement of the judgment. Ex. 9; Tr. 2:15. Mr. Sites testified that he did not consider Travelers to be a client to which restitution was owed and he did not at any time dispute the validity of the debt to Travelers. Tr. 2:16.

Grinnell

On May 7, 1984, Mrs. Grinnell filed suit against Mr. Sites and Shawmut Bank of Boston in the Suffolk Superior Court. Exs. 3 and 4. On August 17, 1984, Mrs. Grinnell’s attorney, Donald Kaiser, filed a return of service with the court together with a request that a default enter against Mr. Sites. Ex. 4. The return of service stated service was made on Mr. Sites on July 26, 1984, although it did not state whether service had been made in hand or by mail, nor did it state the address at which Mr. Sites was served. On August 15, 1984, two days before filing the request for the default, Mrs. Grinnell filed an amended complaint. There is no indication on the docket that the amended complaint was served on Mr. Sites. Exs. 4 and 7.

On October 11, 1984, Mrs. Grinnell entered into a stipulation of dismissal with the Bank. Ex. 6. On October 16, 1984, Mrs. Grinnell filed the stipulation of dismissal as well as a motion for assessment of damages against Mr. Sites, with an affidavit from Ms. Atherton, Mrs. Grinnell’s daughter. Exs. 4 and 10. Although the motion for assessment of damages asked for a judgment of $30,000, plus interest, the Superior Court awarded judgment in the amount of $2,500 on Count I plus enhanced interest. That amount was trebled, and attorneys’ fees of $1,000 were added when judgment was entered on Count III, which was the ch. 93A count. Exs. 4 and 11. Mr. Sites first learned of this judgment on October 24, 2001, five days before the first scheduled hearing on his Petition, by way of a letter to Bar Counsel. Ex. 2; Tr. 2:22.

Mr. Sites urged the Panel to conclude that Mrs. Grinnell, or Ms. Atherton acting on her behalf, did not act in good faith in filing the lawsuit. He points to the testimony of Attorney Donald Kaiser, who represented Mrs. Grinnell, regarding the failure to take any action to collect the judgment. For example, Mr. Kaiser never wrote to Mr. Sites about the judgment, never conducted any search for Mr. Sites’ assets, Tr. 1:56, and never mentioned the judgment to Mr. Sites when he saw him around town. Tr. 1:84. Mr. Kaiser testified he believed trying to collect this judgment would be a “fruitless exercise” that would lead Mr. Sites to file for bankruptcy protection. Tr. 1:76. Mr. Kaiser admitted that he was “frankly waiting for Mr. Sites” to move for reinstatement. Tr. 1:77. Ms. Masabny stated she would “gladly forego any monies due me if it meant Mr. Sites would not be reinstated to practice what I know he does best.” Ex. 21.

Mr. Sites testified that the statement in his Petition that he had made restitution as to all of his clients was correct as to Mrs. Grinnell because he believed she had been paid by the Clients' Security Board (“CSB”), and he did not know that there had not been such a payment until he received a letter from the CSB dated July 20, 2001. Tr. 2:33-34.

Mr. Sites did not offer to make any payment in restitution until October 24, 2001, when he offered to pay Mrs. Grinnell’s heirs $3,000. Tr. 2:39-40. After the hearings in this matter, Mr. Sites reached an agreement to settle the default judgment for $10,000 which he paid. First Petition to Supplement; Second Petition to Supplement.

Ferrone

As discussed above, Mr. Sites turned his house over to Mr. Ferrone in partial repayment of the funds Mr. Sites had misappropriated from him. In addition, the CSB awarded a payment to Mr. Ferrone to complete restitution to him as a result of the conversion of his funds.

CSB

Between December 1988 and April 12, 2000, Mr. Sites paid $9,116.04 to the CSB as restitution for awards that CSB made to his former clients discussed above, and other clients who were victimized by his professional misconduct. Questionnaire.

Baynes

Among the debts listed on the Questionnaire is a $21,000 judgment obtained by Harold Baynes. Questionnaire p. 7. Mr. Baynes co-signed a personal loan that Mr. Sites obtained from a bank in Brockton. Tr. 2:17. In 1984, when the note was due, Mr. Sites did not have the funds to pay it, and Mr. Baynes was obliged to pay as the co-signer. Tr. 2:18. Mr. Baynes later sued Mr. Sites.

Through late 1989, Mr. Sites made regular payments to Mr. Baynes’ attorney, Mr. Clayton. Tr. 2:18. At some point, Mr. Clayton informed Mr. Sites that he was withdrawing as Mr. Baynes’ attorney, and Mr. Sites should wait to be notified as to where to send the payments. Mr. Sites was never contacted by Mr. Baynes or another attorney regarding this matter, although he saw Mr. Baynes on various occasions where they spoke cordially. Tr. 2:18-19. Because Mr. Baynes never mentioned the debt to Mr. Sites nor took any collection action for 13 years, Mr. Sites testified he assumed the debt had been forgiven, although he did not take any steps to confirm whether that was true. Tr. 2:86-87.

As noted above, Mr. Sites provided evidence that he had reached an agreement with Mr. Baynes to pay this judgment and that as of April 9, 2003, he was current on the payments. Third Petition to Supplement.

Bar Counsel’s Position

Bar Counsel opposes the Petition on the grounds that Mr. Sites has failed to demonstrate he has the moral qualifications to be reinstated because he did the “bare minimum or nothing to satisfy significant financial obligations to two victims of professional misconduct and a social acquaintance who acted as a guarantor… Only as the hearing on reinstatement approached did the petitioner take any significant action to deal with these obligations.” Bar Counsel’s Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendations at p. 8. Bar Counsel compares Mr. Sites’ charitable contributions to his restitution payments, and finds the latter lacking.

Bar Counsel argues that the evidence shows Mr. Sites continued to subordinate his responsibilities to his clients to his personal concerns. Mr. Sites’ belated efforts to make restitution are indicative of his lack of rehabilitation, in Bar Counsel’s view.

IV. Conclusion

On a petition for reinstatement, the Petitioner has the burden of proving that he has the moral qualifications required for admission to practice law; that he has the competency and learning in law required for admission; and that his resumption of practice will not be detrimental to the integrity or standing of the bar, the administration of justice or the public interest. S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 18(5); Matter of Cappiello, 416 Mass. 340, 9 Mass. Att’y. Disc. R. 47 (1993); Matter of Waitz, 416 Mass. 298, 9 Mass. Att’y. Disc. R. 336 (1993). Restitution to clients harmed by an attorney’s misconduct is a means by which an attorney may demonstrate rehabilitation. Matter of Bryan, 15 Mass. Atty. Disc. R. 65, 69 (1999). In evaluating a petition for reinstatement, the true test must always be the public welfare. Matter of Waitz, supra.

This is a close case. There is no question that Mr. Sites has changed his personal life in many respects and has made valuable contributions to his church and community. There is also no question that his legal skills meet the standard required for reinstatement. The Panel credits the testimony of Mr. O’Connor, Mr. McClusky and Judge Creedon, and has given due consideration to the letters of recommendation submitted on Mr. Sites’ behalf.

The Panel was troubled, however, by Mr. Sites’ sometimes reluctant attempts at restitution and repayment. While the Panel credited Mr. Sites’ testimony that he did not know about the Grinnell judgment until just before the reinstatement hearing, his testimony that he did not consider Travelers to be a client to which restitution was owed was more troubling. In any event, Mr. Sites has paid the settlement with Travelers in full, so restitution has been made, albeit on the eve of the hearing on his Petition. Mr. Sites has also satisfied a settlement agreement with Mrs. Grinnell’s heirs.

The Panel was particularly concerned about Mr. Sites cavalier attitude about paying the Baynes judgment, even though Mr. Baynes was not a client. The evidence that Mr. Sites has made arrangements to pay the judgment through installment payments eased that concern.

The Panel also considered the letters it received opposing reinstatement. Two of the letters were from Mrs. Grinnell’s daughters, who have now settled with Mr. Sites, and the Panel has taken that settlement into account in reaching its conclusion.

Ultimately, the Panel concluded that Mr. Sites has met his burden of proof. His many good works, his clear legal abilities and his efforts to make restitution, albeit tardy, warrant reinstatement. The Panel is satisfied that “his resumption of practice will not be detrimental to the integrity or standing of the bar, the administration of justice or the public interest.”

IV. Recommendation.

For the foregoing reasons, the Panel recommends that Petitioner be reinstated to the Bar of the Commonwealth.

Respectfully submitted,

M. Ellen Carpenter, Chair
Mitchell J. Kaplan
Robert J. Guttentag

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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