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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

PUBLIC REPRIMAND NO. 2001-9



IN RE: MURRAY SHULMAN

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board April 26, 2001.

SUMMARY1


The respondent received a public reprimand for the neglect described in a two-count petition for discipline as follows.

Count One of the petition for discipline arose from the respondent's neglect of a client's claim against his former partner related to their joint ownership of real estate. In June 1992 each of the parties conveyed his interest in two of the properties to the other. In July 1992 the former partner conveyed his interest in one of the properties to a third person.

The client believed that his former partner fraudulently misrepresented that certain repairs had been made on one of the properties that the client received, and thus that he had received less than full value for his interest in the real estate. In August 1992 the respondent filed suit in district court on the client's behalf against his former partner. The former partner's attorney had the case transferred to housing court in September 1992. The respondent objected to the transfer, and tried unsuccessfully to transfer the case to superior court, on the grounds that the housing court did not have jurisdiction over the claim of fraudulent conveyance. The respondent took no action on the housing court case after April 1993, when he filed answers to interrogatories and responded to requests for production of documents.

In July 1994 the respondent filed suit on the client's behalf in superior court on the grounds of fraudulent misrepresentations and fraudulent conveyance. He sought to have the conveyance from the former partner to the third party set aside and to have an attachment for the client's benefit placed on the property. However, the respondent failed to answer interrogatories, and the superior court case was dismissed in December 1995.

The respondent did not respond to the client's inquiries about the status of the cases until after the client filed a complaint with the Office of Bar Counsel in November 1997. The respondent then did not reply in a timely manner to Bar Counsel's inquiries and did not provide certain information requested by the Office of Bar Counsel until he appeared under subpoena in June 1998.

In April 1998 the housing court notified the parties that the pending case would be dismissed because of an extended period of inactivity. The respondent answered and appeared on the client's behalf at a pretrial conference in June 1998. In October 1998 the former partner filed a suggestion of bankruptcy. The housing court case was placed in "Stayed" status, where it remained as of the date Bar Counsel's petition for discipline was filed.

The respondent's neglect of his client and his client's cases, his failure to file answers to interrogatories in the superior court case, his failure diligently to represent the client in his claim in the housing court case, and his failure to respond to the client's inquiries about the status of his case, is conduct in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(2) and (3) and Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.3, and 1.4. The respondent's failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel's investigation is conduct in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(g) and Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, sec. 3.

Count Two of the petition for discipline arose from the respondent's neglect of a client's appeal of a criminal conviction. The client was represented at trial by other counsel.

The client was found guilty in December 1995 on several counts, including operating under the influence, and was sentenced to 18 months, with one year to serve, six months suspended for two years with supervised probation. He also was sentenced to three months, to be served from and after, for leaving the scene of an accident.

In or about December 1995 the client gave the respondent a $2,000 retainer to represent him in post conviction matters. The client believed he had been wrongly convicted, and sought to appeal his case. Although the respondent ordered and reviewed trial tapes, he did not take further action in connection with the appeal.

Trial counsel filed a motion to revise and revoke in February 1996. A few days later, the respondent also filed a motion to revise, revoke and/or amend the from and after sentence, seeking to have it run concurrently with the sentence for operating under the influence.

The client actually served six months and 17 days and was released in June 1996. After his release the client still wanted to pursue the matter, in part because he was being sued by the insurer of the driver of the other car in a small claims court proceeding. The client filed a complaint with the Office of Bar Counsel in March 1997. Thereafter, the respondent represented him in the small claims court proceeding. In June 1997 a finding entered for the client and against the insurer as subrogee of the driver of the other car.

In June 1998, more than a year later, the respondent filed the client's motion for a new trial on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, accompanied by affidavits of the client and his girlfriend. After two days of hearing the motion was denied. The client decided not to pursue the matter further.

The respondent's conduct in failing to pursue the client's claim of appeal, and in failing to complete and file the client's motion for new trial until two and a half years after he was retained violated Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(2) and (3).

The respondent was admitted to practice in 1969. In aggravation, the respondent's disciplinary history consists of a 1982 private reprimand for neglect of a 1977 file and a 1987 informal admonition for neglect, incompetence and failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel in connection with two 1985 files. In mitigation, the respondent attended a CLE course recommended by Bar Counsel, and successfully fulfilled the terms of a mentoring agreement with an experienced attorney.

The matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation that the respondent receive a public reprimand. On March 12, 2001 the Board adopted the parties' recommendation.

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



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