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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2002-23



IN RE: WILLIAM C. GARRAHAN

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board September 18, 2002.

SUMMARY1


In or about 1990, a client engaged the respondent to represent him in connection with the development and sale of eight parcels of land owned by a realty trust. The client was an investor who had loaned money to the trust, and was acting as an agent of the trust with respect to the development and the sale of the lots.

Between September 1990 and July 1992, the respondent prepared deeds and trustee certificates to be used when the trust sold the lots. Because the buyers had not yet been identified, the respondent left the buyers’ names, the purchase prices, and the dates blank. In or about 1990 or 1991, the two trustees of the trust went to the respondent’s office and signed the incomplete deeds and trustee certificates. The respondent notarized the signatures, but left the dates of his acknowledgements blank.

In or about 1992, the respondent prepared new deeds and trustee certificates to reflect changes to lot lines. Because the buyers still had not been identified, the respondent again left the buyers’ names, the purchase prices, and the dates blank. In or about 1992, the two trustees of the trust went to the respondent’s office and signed the revised but still incomplete deeds and trustee certificates. The respondent notarized the signatures, but left the dates of his acknowledgements blank.

In or about 1992, the respondent moved his offices to a new location. As a result of the move, he misplaced some of the presigned deeds and trustee certificates.

During 1992 and 1993, the trust sold the eight parcels of land. As each lot sold, if the respondent could find the relevant presigned deed and trustee certificate, he added the name of the buyer, the purchase price, and the date to the presigned deed and trustee certificate. The respondent dated his acknowledgements as notary with the dates that he completed the instruments, even though those were not the dates when the trustees had signed the instruments. After the sales, the respondent recorded the instruments with the Registry of Deeds.

In three instances where the respondent had misplaced the presigned deeds and trustee certificates, the respondent prepared new deeds and trustee certificates that included the names of the buyers, the purchase prices, and the dates. Believing that the two trustees did not want to come to his office to execute the instruments for a third time and had authorized him to sign the instruments for them, the respondent signed the trustees’ names to the new deeds and trustee certificates, and then notarized the signatures. After the sales, the respondent recorded the instruments with the Registry of Deeds.

On or about April 26, 1993, the respondent prepared and signed an affidavit in which he represented that one of the co-venturers “is not and has never been a beneficiary or holder of any beneficial interest in [the trust]”. In fact, while the co-venturer was not a beneficiary of the trust or shown on the current schedule of beneficiaries in 1993 when the respondent signed the affidavit, he had been a beneficiary listed on the original schedule of beneficiaries prepared by another attorney in 1989 when the trust was formed. The respondent did not review the original schedule of beneficiaries before preparing and signing the affidavit and instead relied on incomplete information provided to him by his client. On April 26, 1993, the respondent recorded the affidavit at the Registry of Deeds.

A dispute developed between one of the trustees and the respondent’s client over unrelated business dealings. In 1996, the trustee and others initiated a civil action against the respondent’s client and others arising out of the land sales. In April of 1997, four years after completing the real estate transactions in question, the respondent was brought into the case as a defendant.

In August of 2000, the respondent reached a settlement in the civil matter to the trustee’s satisfaction and was dismissed from the civil suit by stipulation prior to trial.

By signing the trustees’ signatures to deeds and trustee certificates and by affixing false notarizations to documents before recording them at the Registry of Deeds, the respondent violated Canon One, DR 1-102(A)(4), (5), and (6), and Canon Seven, DR 7-102(A)(5).

By failing to adequately investigate the various transactions involving the trust before signing and recording an affidavit which contained a false representation that one individual had never been a beneficiary of the trust, the respondent handled a legal matter without preparation adequate in the circumstances, in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(2).

The respondent was admitted to practice in 1985. In aggravation, the respondent received an admonition in 1993 for depositing client funds into his office operating account, and for failing to maintain an IOLTA account or individual client funds accounts. Admonition No. AD-93-6, 9 Mass. Att’y Disc. R. 442 (1993).

The matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and a joint recommendation for discipline. The Board of Bar Overseers accepted the parties’ recommendation and imposed a public reprimand on September 9, 2002.

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



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