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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2003-15



ANTHONY W. NEAL

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board October 31, 2003.

SUMMARY1


In about July of 2000, a client engaged the respondent to represent him in an employment discrimination matter. The client alleged that his employer had discriminated against him with respect to his compensation on account of his race, color and national origin. The respondent agreed to represent the client on a contingency fee basis. The respondent had the client sign a contingent fee agreement but failed to retain a copy of it.

On or about July 7, 2000, the respondent filed discrimination charges on behalf of the client with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with respect to the pay disparity claim. In December 2000, the respondent removed the MCAD claim to Norfolk Superior Court. In January of 2002, the client engaged the respondent to represent him in a retaliation claim against the same employer.

On or about June 6, 2002, the employer served the respondent by mail with a summary judgment motion with respect to the pay disparity claim. The respondent did not notify the client that he had received the summary judgment motion, or take action to oppose the motion. On July 9, 2002, the employer filed the unopposed summary judgment motion and supportive pleadings with the court. The respondent did not notify the client that the summary judgment motion had been filed.

On July 16, 2002, the court entered an order allowing the employer's summary judgment motion. The respondent did not notify the client that the summary judgment motion had been allowed.

On or about August 15, 2002, the respondent filed in court and served the employer with an emergency motion for reconsideration of the order granting summary judgment to the employer, together with a notice of appeal. On or about August 26, 2002, the respondent filed in court a motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment decision, and related papers, including an opposition to the summary judgment motion.

On September 13, 2002, the court denied the motions to reconsider the order granting summary judgment to the employer. The respondent did not notify the client of the court's order. On September 18, 2002, summary judgment entered for the employer, and the client's case was dismissed.

On or about October 18, 2002, the client contacted the Attorney and Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) of the Office of Bar Counsel, and learned that his case had been dismissed. The client engaged successor counsel who, on or about November 7, 2002, requested that the respondent provide him with a copy of the client's file. When the respondent failed to produce the file, on December 4, 2002, the successor counsel filed a request for investigation with Bar Counsel. On or about December 16, 2002, the respondent delivered the client’s file to successor counsel.

The respondent failed to respond to Bar Counsel’s letters requesting information about the client’s case. On February 4, 2003, the Board of Bar Overseers issued a subpoena requiring the respondent to appear and produce documents. On March 11, 2003, the respondent met with Bar Counsel and produced documents in compliance with the subpoena.

By failing to file a timely opposition to the employer's summary judgment motion, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), and 1.3. By failing to inform his client about the summary judgment motion and order of dismissal, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4(a) and (b). By failing to retain a copy of his contingent fee agreement with the client, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(c). By failing to promptly return his client's file upon request, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(e). By failing to cooperate in Bar Counsel's investigation, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(g) and (h), and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 3.

The respondent was admitted to practice in 1986. In aggravation, the respondent’s motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment order was denied, and the client’s claim for back wages based on pay disparity was dismissed. The respondent had no professional liability insurance. The client’s retaliatory discharge claim is still viable, however, and is being litigated by successor counsel.

In further aggravation, on June 25, 2002, the respondent received an admonition for failing to promptly withdraw an earned fee from his IOLTA account, and for inadequate record keeping. Admonition No. 02-31, 18 Mass. Att’y Disc. R. ____ (June 25, 2002).

In mitigation, during the relevant time period, the respondent was under severe emotional distress. He was engaged in a custody dispute and was evicted from his apartment. The respondent sought 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 parties’ recommendation and imposed a public reprimand.

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



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