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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

PUBLIC REPRIMAND NO. 2001-3



IN RE: MAURICE P. MASON, JR.

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board February 12, 2001.

SUMMARY1


The respondent received a public reprimand for permitting a bankruptcy client's claim to an exemption to be disallowed and for subsequently misrepresenting the status of the matter to the client.

The respondent filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy on behalf of a client on June 13, 1991. On November 22, 1991, the bankruptcy trustee filed an adversary proceeding against the client claiming that certain property transfers from the client to his wife made prior to filing were fraudulent conveyances. After negotiation, a judgment entered in April 1993, avoiding the transfers and allowing the bankruptcy trustee to recover the property.

The house occupied by the client and his wife was sold in 1996 by the bankruptcy trustee. The respondent had advised the client that he was entitled to a $7500 homestead exemption from the sale of the property. After the sale, the client's wife received her share of the proceeds from the sale. However, by letter dated December 11, 1996, the bankruptcy trustee advised the respondent that the client would be unable to claim proceeds of a fraudulent conveyance recovery as exempt.

Thereafter, and because the original bankruptcy petition did not list the marital home as exempt, the respondent on February 24, 1997 filed a motion to amend Schedule B in order to claim the client's $7500 exemption. The motion to amend was allowed on February 25, 1997. On March 20, 1997, the bankruptcy trustee filed an objection to the client's claim of exemption. The respondent did not file a response and the trustee's objection was sustained on April 21, 1997.

On August 7, 1997, the bankruptcy trustee filed his final report and account before distribution. The respondent filed an objection on September 24, 1997 because the report did not allow the client's exemption. On October 8, 1997, the respondent withdrew the objection, after being persuaded by the bankruptcy trustee that the client would not prevail. The respondent did not discuss this decision with the client before withdrawing the objection and did not thereafter advise the client that the objection had been withdrawn. On March 17, 1998, the trustee filed his final report and account after distribution and on March 19, 1998 the case was closed.

In mid 1998, the client on his own learned that his bankruptcy case had been closed. He contacted the respondent, who falsely advised him that the case was closed due to an error by the court and further falsely advised him that the respondent had filed a motion for relief on May 7, 1998. The respondent provided the client with a copy of the purported motion for relief and accompanying cover letter to the Bankruptcy Court. The client subsequently inquired as to the status of the motion for relief and the respondent falsely advised him that he was waiting for court to act on the motion.

The motion for relief was never filed and was never intended to be filed. The respondent's intent in preparing this motion was to conceal from the client the true status of the case. The motion stated only that the client's motion to amend the petition to claim the exemption had been allowed and that the client had filed an objection to the trustee's final account. The motion did not state that the trustee's subsequent objection to the claim of exemption had been sustained after the motion to amend was allowed and that the respondent had withdrawn his objection to the trustee's final account.

The respondent's failure to keep his client informed about the status of his bankruptcy case and his failure to file a response to the trustee's objection to the motion to amend Schedule B constitutes inadequate preparation and neglect of the case and the client in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(2),(3) and Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, and 1.4(a).

The respondent's withdrawal of the client's objection to the trustee's account, without authorization from the client, is conduct in violation of Canon Seven, DR 7-101(A)(1),(2),(3). The respondent's withdrawal of the client's objection to the trustee's account was also a misrepresentation to the trustee and the court of his authority to do so, in violation of Canon One, DR 1-102(A)(4),(5),(6).

The respondent's intentional misrepresentation to his client of the status of the case after the respondent had withdrawn his objection to the trustee's final report, and the respondent's further fabrication of the motion for relief and his misrepresentation that it had been filed, all to conceal from the client that the objection had been withdrawn, is in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c), (h).

The respondent has a prior informal admonition from 1993, also for neglect in a bankruptcy. This matter came before the Board on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation for discipline by public reprimand. The Board accepted the parties' recommendation and imposed a public reprimand.

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



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