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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

PUBLIC REPRIMAND 2001-12



IN RE: RONNY M. SYDNEY

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board June 7, 2001.

SUMMARY1


The respondent was a state representative of a town that had a matter pending before the Office of Administrative Appeals of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (OAA). OAA decides appeals from permits, enforcement orders and civil administrative penalties and conducts its hearings under the Code of Massachusetts Regulations. It is therefore a tribunal within the meaning of Mass. R. Prof. C. 9.1(o).

The town and the local conservation commission had approved a project bordering a wetland area. Certain parties appealed and the town filed a motion to dismiss. On June 6, 2000, the respondent wrote a letter to the OAA administrative law judge who was to rule on the pending motion to dismiss. The letter encouraged a particular outcome. No copy of the letter was sent to any party to the appeal. The respondent signed the letter in her capacity as a public official on behalf of her constituents.

The respondent's conduct in sending a communication to an administrative law judge in a pending matter and encouraging a particular outcome, without being a party to the case or being permitted to intervene, violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.5(a) and (b) (prohibiting a lawyer from seeking to influence a judge or other official by means prohibited by law and from communicating ex parte except as permitted by law).

The OAA docket clerk refused to file the letter and returned it to the respondent. The letter was not accepted for filing because the respondent was not a party to the appeal and had not moved for leave to participate. In fact, the administrative law judge had written his opinion before the letter was received. The respondent had no relationship to any of the parties to the appeal except in her role as a state representative.

This matter came before the Board on May 14, 2001 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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