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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2002-014



JOHN A. BERNARDO

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board June 24, 2002.

SUMMARY1


The respondentís mother died in November 24, 1995. Shortly before her death, the mother created a trust to hold her property. The trust named the respondent as trustee and the respondent and certain other relatives as beneficiaries. After his motherís death, the respondent made no distributions of trust property or income to himself or any of the other beneficiaries.

In September 1996, a woman filed a complaint in the Probate and Family Court to establish the respondentís paternity of her daughter, who was born in June 1996. In October 1997, the respondent, representing himself in the matter, filed a financial statement pursuant to Supplemental Probate Court Rule 401 in which he failed to disclose his interest in the trust his mother had created. The respondent, who was not experienced in family law matters, incorrectly believed that he was not required to disclose his interest in the trust on the financial statement because he had made no distributions from the trust.

In November 1997, based on the information contained on the financial statement the respondent submitted, the court ordered the respondent to pay $79.50 per week for support of the minor child. In March 1998, the respondent filed a corrected financial statement with the probate court accurately disclosing his interest in the trust. In November 2000, the respondent settled the paternity action by acknowledging paternity of the minor child and agreeing to pay $230 each week for the support of his daughter.

The respondent received a public reprimand for violating Canon One, Disciplinary Rules 1-102(A)(5) and (6) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or other conduct adversely reflecting on fitness to practice law), by negligently failing to disclose his interest in the trust on the financial statement he filed in the paternity action.

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



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