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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

PUBLIC REPRIMAND NO. 2000-9



IN RE: SHIRLEY M. KERMAN

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board June 20, 2000.

SUMMARY1


The respondent represented two of seven adult children in a guardianship dispute over the care and assets of their elderly mother. The respondent engaged in conduct that was disrespectful to the court and others and disruptive of court proceedings on four separate occasions in the guardianship case.

On the first occasion, a motion hearing, the respondent referred to her opponents as "untrustworthy, lying people" and "vultures". She referred to opposing counsel as a "shyster" who told "bald faced lies". On four separate occasions, the respondent stated she would leave the courtroom if opposing counsel spoke. Although the court told her not to leave, she left the courtroom when opposing counsel began to speak.

On the second occasion, a motion hearing, the respondent referred to opposing counsel as "totally loathsome" and "nothing but a bald faced liar". She referred to the proceedings as "a disgrace" and accused the court of bias against her and in favor of her opponents in sarcastic, degrading and disrespectful terms repeatedly throughout the hearing.

On the third occasion, the second day of trial, the respondent continued to accuse the court of bias in sarcastic, degrading and disrespectful terms and referred to the proceedings as "a total travesty" and "an absolute joke". In the afternoon session, the respondent left the courtroom without the court's permission during the cross-examination of her client and returned a short time later.

On the fourth occasion, the third and last day of trial, the court admonished the respondent for having left the courtroom the day before without the court's permission. The respondent responded with extended disrespectful criticisms of the court and opposing counsel. At the beginning of the trial, the court had told counsel that each would have a certain amount of time to present his or her case. During the morning of the last day of trial, the court informed the respondent that her time was up and that she would not be allowed to cross-examine the opposing parties' witnesses. The respondent engaged in an extended angry response and repeatedly referred to the proceedings as "a total travesty", "an absolute outrage" and "an absolute disgrace". The respondent became agitated and upset and asked for a recess on two occasions, which the court granted. After court resumed the second time, the respondent continued to argue with the court, again became upset, and left the courtroom without seeking or obtaining the court's permission. The court adjourned for the day.

On March 9, 2000, the respondent entered into a stipulation with Bar Counsel acknowledging that her conduct in the guardianship matter violated Canon One, Disciplinary Rule 1-102(A)(5) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice), and Canon Seven, Disciplinary Rules 7-101(A)(3) (prejudice or damage client during professional relationship) and 7-106(A) (conduct in disregard of a ruling of a tribunal made in the course of a proceeding) and (C)(6) (undignified or discourteous conduct which is degrading to a tribunal). In mitigation, the respondent has practiced since 1954 and has no disciplinary history, the family dispute was long-standing and highly emotional, the respondent's husband and law partner was seriously ill during the events in issue, and prior to trial the respondent advised her client to consider another attorney because she believed the court was biased against her. In aggravation, the respondent was sanctioned by the court for her disrespectful and disruptive behavior.

On May 8, 2000, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to accept the stipulation of the parties and to administer a public reprimand to the respondent.

1 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record of proceedings before the Board.



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