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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

PUBLIC REPRIMAND NO. 2001-13



IN RE: JOHN P. RAUSEO

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board July 25, 2001.

SUMMARY1


The respondent received a public reprimand for two matters involving inadequate trust account record keeping and related violations.

The first matter arose from Bar Counselís receipt in December 1997 of a notice of dishonored check drawn on the respondentís IOLTA account. The check in question was in the amount of $2008, payable to the respondent as a fee, and intended to be drawn against a $7500 retainer from a client. However, payment of this check would have caused an overdraft in the amount of $858.

Review of the respondentís trust account records showed generally inadequate record keeping and a series of errors, going back at least two years and unrelated to the case in which the $7500 retainer was paid. These problems created a deficiency of $6900 in the IOLTA account that had been covered by the float until the check was returned in 1997. The errors were not discovered before then because the respondent did not maintain an adequate check register, did not maintain individual client ledgers, and did not reconcile, or did not adequately reconcile, the account.

The respondentís mistakes included such errors as failing to keep track of fees withdrawn against a retainer, or of expenses to be reimbursed after a settlement, and thus overpaying himself; depositing fees to his operating account, then negligently withdrawing the same sums or a portion of the same sums from his IOLTA account; inadvertently writing checks from his IOLTA account, either to pay bills or transfer funds to his personal account, that were intended to drawn on his operating account; and negligently overpaying a client.

In mitigation, the respondent retained an accountant to reconcile the account and deposited sufficient funds to the account to cover the shortfall. The respondentís inadequate recordkeeping, commingling of client funds with personal or business funds, and negligent misuse of client funds without intent to deprive and with no deprivation resulting, was in violation of Canon Nine, DR 9-102(A) and (B)(3).

The second matter again involved record keeping mistakes. A personal injury client of the respondent was sued by a medical provider for a bill in the amount of $1539 that she thought the respondent had been supposed to pay from PIP funds when the case settled in 1992. The client complained to Bar Counsel in 1997 when the respondent did not return her calls.

The respondent in fact had handled two personal injury cases for the client during the same time period. The other case had settled in 1991. At Bar Counselís instance, the respondent in November 1997 reviewed his records and prepared complete accountings in the two accident claims. He determined that the PIP funds at issue had been used to pay other medical providers and that, except as described below, the client had received the balance of the settlement over and above fees and costs. However, because of confusion in the record keeping between the two cases, the respondent had underpaid the client $454. He remitted this sum plus interest to the client immediately after completing the reconciliation of the accounting in the two cases.

The respondentís failure to return the clientís telephone calls in 1997 and his further failure to provide her with an accounting, or an accurate accounting, of the disbursement of her settlement proceeds, either in 1991 and 1992 or in 1997 before she filed a complaint with Bar Counsel, constituted neglect and inadequate record keeping in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3), and Canon Nine, DR 9-102(B)(3).

This matter came before the Board on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation for discipline by public reprimand, conditioned upon satisfactory completion of the one-year financial probation agreement. The Board accepted the partiesí 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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