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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-99-045

IN RE: IRWIN I. WEITZ

S.J.C. Order of Reinstatement entered by Justice Sosman on June 1, 2001. 1
HEARING PANEL REPORT

I. Introduction

Petitioner Irwin I. Weitz (“Weitz”) seeks reinstatement after a one-year suspension that took effect on September 10, 1999. See BD-99-045. Weitz has been eligible to petition for reinstatement since September 11, 2000.

The Hearing Panel consisted of Thomas E. Peisch, Esq., Chair, John O. Mirick, Esq., and Ms. Maryanne Frangules. The Panel held two days of hearings on January 17 and February 12, 2001. The Panel considered the materials submitted with the petition, five exhibits, and the testimony of five witnesses (including Weitz). All of the witnesses supported reinstatement. Exhibits 4 and 5 consisted of prior disciplinary actions taken against Weitz which the Panel accepted over Weitz's objection.1 Two witnesses were attorney/acquaintances of Weitz's, a third was his law partner (Charles Sclafani), and the fourth witness was a former business client.

Bar Counsel called no witnesses.

II. Findings and Conclusions

Weitz was admitted to the Bar in 1965. He has spent his entire professional life in private practice in Springfield. Prior to his suspension, he was a partner in the law firm of Weitz & Sclafani, a three-attorney law firm in Springfield. Weitz's son, Stuart F. Weitz, is also a partner in the firm; Weitz's wife is and has been employed by the firm as an administrator/paralegal.

In 1990, Weitz received a private reprimand in connection with his having represented a mother and daughter in a loan transaction that ultimately resulted in litigation between them. Ex. 4; Tr. II, p. 87. In 1994, Weitz received a public reprimand for having on three occasions notarized the signature on real estate documents of an individual who did not appear before him. See 10 Massachusetts Disciplinary Reports 286. Ex. 5; Tr. II, p. 92. The events that led to the private reprimand took place in 1987; those that resulted in the public censure took place in 1988.

The events that formed the basis of the suspension took place in late 1990 and early 1991. In brief, Weitz abused his position of trust as closing counsel for a Springfield bank in connection with a transaction in which he also represented the buyers of property in Springfield. The bank suffered a large loss when the buyers were unable to make mortgage payments. As a result of his misconduct, Weitz has been permanently prohibited from representing any lending institution insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. His malpractice insurer paid the bank $75,000.00 to settle a civil claim against him.2 He was also suspended from the practice of law for a year.

At the outset of the hearing, Bar Counsel indicated he would not take a position on the petition until the conclusion of the evidence. After the evidence was concluded, Bar Counsel recommended favorable action on the petition “with some considerable hesitation.” Tr. II, p. 132. Bar Counsel's Post-Hearing Memorandum dated March 27 supported reinstatement. While the Panel has reservations, it concludes that Weitz has sustained his burden of demonstrating that he “has the moral qualifications, competency and learning in the law required for admission to practice in this Commonwealth, and that . . . his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the Bar . . . .” Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, section 18(d)(5). See also, BBO Rules 3.65. The Panel's conclusions are as follows:

1. Weitz has demonstrated that he has maintained his competency and learning in the law during his suspension. He has regularly read the Lawyer's Weekly and other materials. He has taken and completed a professional responsibility examination. Tr. II, pp. 64-5, 70. Weitz's wife and son, with whom he appears to have close relationships, have maintained the law practice during the period of his suspension. The Panel believes it is unlikely that Weitz has not been kept generally informed about the affairs of the law firm, an aspect of the petition the Hearing Panel found troubling. Weitz's wife, an administrator/paralegal in the law firm, received a substantial increase in her compensation at about the time of Weitz's suspension. Weitz received payments from the law firm during his suspension that were generated by work done before the suspension and installment payments from his partners for their pre-suspension buy-ins to the partnership.3 However, Weitz and his partner Sclafani both testified that Weitz has had no involvement with the law firm's affairs during the period of his suspension. Bar Counsel offered no evidence to the contrary and conceded in the Post-Hearing Memorandum that Weitz has “fully complied with the suspension order.” The Panel concludes, therefore, that, notwithstanding Weitz's family ties and the payments referred to above, he has complied with the terms of his suspension.

2. The Panel concludes that Weitz has the moral qualifications required for re-admission to practice. Weitz appeared generally to understand the seriousness of his wrongdoing and to be remorseful about it. The conduct that resulted in his disciplinary problems took place many years ago. His community service work during his suspension at Bay State Medical Center, Jewish Nursing Home, and the Literacy Project is significant, if not particularly remarkable. Weitz and Sclafani testified credibly that several years before the suspension the law firm put procedures into place for dealing with ethical issues, including periodic consultations with the Office of Bar Counsel in appropriate circumstances. The misconduct at issue took place nearly ten years ago, and Weitz practiced law without apparent difficulty from 1991 until his suspension in September, 1999.4

3. The closest question for the Panel was whether Weitz's re-admission would be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the Bar. After due consideration, the Panel concludes that Weitz's reinstatement will not be. The Panel notes that Weitz has now served a suspension substantially in excess of that ordered by the Single Justice. Weitz has been severely (and justifiably) sanctioned for his misconduct. As noted, Bar Counsel does not oppose the petition and specifically declined to make a recommendation as to probationary conditions. Weitz also has taken and passed the professional responsibility examination. The Panel believes that Weitz understands that any future disciplinary lapses will have the direst of consequences.

The Hearing Panel recommends that Weitz's petition for reinstatement be allowed.

THE HEARING PANEL Thomas E. Peisch, Esq., Chair
John O. Mirick, Esq.
Ms. Maryanne Frangules

Dated: April 12, 2001

FOOTNOTES

1 The Panel also considered letters from the Massachusetts Conveyancers Association dated December 20, 2000 and January 12, 2001. Neither of these were marked as exhibits but are contained in the Board's file. The MCA initially objected to reinstatement but withdrew its objection as the result of correspondence from Weitz and his counsel.

2 The bank's loss appears to have been considerably larger than $75,000.00. No explanation for the discrepancy was offered.

3 While Weitz had no difficulty accepting Sclafani's payments, Weitz claims not to have cashed checks given him by his son for the same purpose.

4 The conduct that formed the basis of the previous disciplinary action took place in 1987-1988.



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