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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2002-20


Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board August 27, 2002.


In November 1995, the respondent was appointed to represent the defendant on serious criminal charges. The defendant was convicted after trial, and on February 11, 1997, he was sentenced to 11 to 13 years at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. After sentencing, the defendant asked the respondent to file an appeal. He also wrote the respondent and asked her to file a notice of appeal and a sentence appeal. The respondent failed to respond to the defendantís letter and failed to file the appeals.

The defendant filed a sentence appeal pro se, and apparently believed that the respondent had filed an appeal of his conviction. The respondent received notice of hearing regarding the defendantís sentence appeal, and went to the Appellate Division on May 21, 1997, to represent the defendant. After the respondent advised the defendant of the risks of the appeal, he decided to not to go forward and sentence appeal was withdrawn. Believing that she had filed a notice of appeal on behalf of the defendant, the respondent advised him that he still had the appeal of his conviction as a possible remedy for his situation.

The respondent failed to reply to the defendantís subsequent letters regarding the status of the appeal of his conviction.. The defendant obtained a copy of his docket sheets to check the status of his case and saw the withdrawal of the sentence appeal. He mistakenly believed that the respondent had withdrawn his general appeal without his consent. The defendant then filed a motion for new trial and counsel was appointed to represent him.

Appointed counsel filed a motion for new trial pursuant to Commonwealth. v. Cowie, 404 Mass. 119 (1989), which held that a defendant who had been deprived of his appellate rights could argue appellate issues in a motion for new trial. The motion which alleged improper final argument by the prosecutor was allowed by the trial judge. The defendant pled guilty on January 2, 2002, and received a sentence of 7 to 9 years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction with 2 years probation from and after. Thus in the end, the defendant suffered no harm.

The respondentís failure to file a timely notice of appeal on behalf of her client and her failure to respond to the clientís telephone calls and letters was in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.3 and 1.4.

The respondent has been a member of the bar since 1987. In aggravation, she received an admonition in 1996, for similar misconduct when she failed to file a motion to revise and revoke after being asked to so by her client. In mitigation, the respondentís family life was in turmoil from 1994 through 1997, and she had difficulty adjusting both personally and professionally. The respondent is a sole practitioner and she had no support staff during this period. Since that time, the respondent has hired a part-time paralegal, and has instituted new office procedures which have enabled her to stay in control of her law practice.

The respondent received a public reprimand for her conduct in this matter.

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

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