Mass.gov
   
Mass.Gov home Mass.gov  home get things done agencies Search Mass.Gov


Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2003-1



IN RE: ROSALYN GARFIELD

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board March 18, 2003.

SUMMARY1


The respondent represented a buyer in the purchase of two properties in Massachusetts. In the first purchase, the parties in 1996 entered into a purchase and sale agreement for a date specific. The seller was unable to convey clear title on that date. The parties and their counsel agreed to close pursuant to a written escrow agreement. Although the client understood that he was purchasing a property with a clouded title, the respondent did not fully explain to the client the financial risks of a clouded title, given the clientís plans to make substantial improvements to the property.

The respondent undertook responsibility to clear the title to the first property. The escrow agreement provided that $20,000 be withheld from the sellerís proceeds and used to cover the clientís costs to clear title. In the event that those costs exceeded $20,000, they were to be borne by the client. In the event that those costs were less than $20,000, the remaining escrow balance was to be refunded to the seller.

Thereafter, the respondent represented this same client in the purchase in 1997 of a second property located next to the first property. The sellers in this second transaction were again unable to convey clear title on the closing date. The parties agreed to close pursuant to a written escrow agreement requiring that $30,000 be withheld from the sellersí proceeds to clear title. The respondent undertook responsibility to clear the title to the second property. The respondent again failed to explain fully to the client the financial risks of buying the second property with a clouded title, given the clientís plans to make substantial improvements.

Over the next six years, the respondent took no action to clear the title to the first property and the title continues to be clouded. The respondent did file an action to quiet title to the second property, which was resolved in May of 2002. The escrowed funds for the second property were disbursed pursuant to a settlement agreement in that lawsuit, and the client holds clear title to the second property. The respondent has since withdrawn as attorney for the client in all matters and has agreed to remit the escrow funds for the first property to a new escrow agent.

The respondentís failure to adequately communicate to the client the risks of purchasing these properties with clouded titles violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4(b). The respondentís failure to take action to quiet title to the first property violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1 and 1.3.

The respondent also failed to cooperate timely and fully with bar counselís investigation. On eight occasions between August of 2001 and August of 2002, the respondent failed to respond to letters from bar counsel. In each such instance, the respondent only answered bar counsel when a second letter was sent by certified mail. The respondentís failure to cooperate with bar counselís investigation violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(g) and Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, ß 3.

In aggravation, the respondent has a prior admonition for inadequate preparation and neglect in an estate matter. The respondent accordingly received a public reprimand.

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



BBO/OBC Privacy Policy. Please direct all questions to webmaster@massbbo.org.
© 2001. Board of Bar Overseers. Office of Bar Counsel. All rights reserved.