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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2003-6


Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board June 19, 2003.


In about August of 1989, a client engaged the respondent to represent him in a personal injury matter arising out of injuries he suffered in a May 11, 1989 automobile accident. On April 15, 1992, the respondent filed a civil complaint against the operator of the other vehicle. The respondent caused the complaint and summons to be served on the defendant on April 22, 1992. The defendant filed his answer on May 11, 1992.

In 1992 and 1993, the parties engaged in written discovery, and the respondentís client was deposed on March 4, 1993. The respondent did not depose or attempt to depose the defendant or any other witness.

In 1992 and 1993, the respondent obtained the clientís records from his medical care providers. These records suggested that the clientís back and leg pain might not have been caused by the automobile accident, but rather might have been caused by scar tissue from his surgery in March 1989 for a ruptured disc. The respondent took no action of substance to obtain an expert opinion on the cause of the client's pain. The respondent did not advise the client that he considered the client's case weak or not worth pursuing.

In about May of 1993, the trial court issued a pre-trial order setting May 26, 1993, as the date for the pre-trial conference. The respondent requested that the court continue the pre-trial conference because he would be out of the Commonwealth from May 24, 1993, through June 2, 1993. The court rescheduled the pre-trial conference for June 7, 1993, but the respondent failed to appear, and the case was dismissed for failure to prosecute. The respondent failed to notify the client of the dismissal and took no action to vacate the judgment of dismissal.

Between 1993 and 1998, the client made repeated inquiries to the respondent regarding the status of the case, to which the respondent falsely replied that the case was proceeding. On December 15, 1997, the client wrote to the respondent and requested that the respondent send him a copy of his file. The respondent did not reply to this letter, and he did not provide the client with a copy of his file.

On January 20, 1998, the client filed a grievance with Bar Counsel. The respondent failed to respond to Bar Counselís letters requesting information about the client's case. On June 23, 1998, the Board of Bar Overseers issued a subpoena directing the respondent to appear with his files for questioning at the Office of Bar Counsel. The respondent thereafter cooperated with Bar Counselís investigation.

In 1998, the client retained successor counsel, who initiated a legal malpractice action against the respondent. The respondent defaulted, and a substantial judgment entered against the respondent on July 9, 2001. The respondent negotiated in good faith with the clientís attorney to settle this judgment.

By failing to take any action of substance to pursue his client's claims, the respondent violated Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(2) and (3). By failing to appear at the pre-trial conference, resulting in the dismissal of the clientís case, the respondent violated Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3), and Canon Seven, DR 7-101(A)(1) - (3). By failing to notify the client that the case had been dismissed and by failing to take any action to attempt to remove the dismissal, the respondent violated Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3). By intentionally misrepresenting to his client for over five years that his case was proceeding when the case had been dismissed, the respondent violated Canon One, DR 1-102(A)(4) and (6). By failing to return his clientís file within a reasonable time following the clientís request for the file, the respondent violated Canon Two, DR 2-110(A)(4). By failing to cooperate with Bar Counselís investigation, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(g), and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, ß 3(1).

The respondent was admitted to practice in 1987. In mitigation, during the relevant time period the respondent's office was in turmoil due to a dispute between his law partners. The stress and anxiety arising from his work situation was exacerbated by the respondent's exhaustion from working two full-time jobs and from depression, which contributed to his inability to handle his work load. The respondent obtained counseling, and his personal circumstances have stabilized.

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 partiesí recommendation and imposed a public reprimand, subject to conditions that the respondent maintain professional liability insurance with limits of liability of at least $250,000 for each claim and $500,000 in the aggregate for all claims for a period of two years, and that he attend a continuing legal education program designated by Bar Counsel on the subject of legal ethics.

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

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