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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-1999-019

IN RE: JOHN R. BERMAN

S.J.C. Judgment of Disbarment entered by Justice Greaney on December 31, 1999.1

SUMMARY2


This matter came before the Court on the respondent's affidavit of resignation pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, sec. 15.

The respondent was admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on November 10, 1959. He was temporarily suspended from the practice of law on March 30, 1999.

In his affidavit of resignation, the respondent acknowledged that "the material facts upon which the Petition for Temporary Suspension is predicated would be established by a preponderance of the evidence adduced at a hearing and that a Hearing Committee, the Board, and the Court would conclude that [the respondent] committed the material acts set forth in the Petition for Temporary Suspension." Those material facts are as follows.

The respondent had been the attorney for a man for approximately twenty years prior to his death in 1992, and was also the attorney for the man's wife [the client] until January 1999. The client was executrix of her husband's estate; the respondent was attorney for the estate. The respondent served as the client's personal attorney, maintained her accounts, and generally oversaw her financial affairs.

The client entrusted approximately $2 million of life insurance proceeds received when her husband died to the respondent to manage. The respondent placed 60% of the funds in a brokerage account in the client's name, and 10% of the funds in an IOLTA account. The placement of the remaining funds is unknown.

Between 1992 and 1998 the respondent made approximately $825,000 in payments, distributions and loans at the client's request. In December 1998 the brokerage account held net assets valued at approximately $260,000. Despite repeated requests by the client, the respondent was unable to account for an additional approximately $910,000 of funds entrusted to him by the client. The respondent used a substantial portion of the unaccounted for funds for his own personal or business purposes and not for the benefit of the client, and with the intention to deprive the client at least temporarily of the use of these funds and with actual deprivation resulting.

The respondent's conduct violated Mass. R. Prof C.1.15(a) and (b) and 8.4(c) and (d).

On December 1, 1999 the respondent submitted his resignation from the practice of law. On December 13, 1999 the Board of Bar Overseers voted to recommend to the Supreme Judicial Court that the affidavit of resignation be accepted, and that an order of disbarment be entered forthwith. On December 31, 1999 the Court (Greaney, J.) ordered that the affidavit of resignation be accepted and that the respondent be disbarred from the practice of law in the Commonwealth effective immediately.


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 submitted to the Supreme Judicial Court.


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