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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2004-006



JOSEPH H. MURPHY

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board April 26, 2004.

SUMMARY1


The client, a temporary employment agency, had provided an underage worker for a temporary job with a manufacturer. The underage employee lost three fingers when the manufacturer’s machine he was operating malfunctioned. Respondent was engaged by the client to represent it in legal matters resulting from the accident. The matters were negotiating charges and fines imposed by the Department of Labor as a result of the injuries to the underage worker, collecting a debt of approximately $70,000 owed to the client by the manufacturer, and negotiating a settlement of any personal injury suit or worker’s compensation claim arising from the industrial accident.

On June 20, 2000, the client forwarded a retainer check in the amount of $3,500.00 to Respondent. Respondent deposited the check into his firm’s IOLTA account. No written fee agreement was signed.

During the month of June 2000 and into early July 2000, Respondent obtained and reviewed payroll, business and insurance records. He conducted several telephone and office conferences with representatives of the Department of Labor and the client’s worker’s compensation carrier, and with the injured worker’s attorney. Respondent prepared a complaint on behalf of the client against the manufacturer but failed to file the complaint. Respondent failed to inform the client as to the outcome of his negotiations with the Department of Labor.

Respondent did not bill the client or send it any accounting of its retainer. On numerous occasions between September 2000 and April 2001, the company’s president and one of its employees telephoned Respondent and left messages for him. Respondent rarely returned any of those telephone calls. In a letter dated April 2, 2001, the client discharged Respondent. The client requested an hourly accounting, the return of the balance of its retainer, and a copy of its file. Respondent returned some documents to the client, but he did not provide an hourly accounting or return any portion of the retainer. The client sent a second letter several weeks later again requesting an hourly accounting, the return of the balance of its retainer, and a complete copy of its file. Respondent did not reply to that letter.

By failing to file the complaint to recover money, Respondent neglected a legal matter entrusted to him, in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.3.

By failing to respond to his client’s many inquiries regarding the status of its claim against the manufacturer, Respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4.

By failing to return or to account for the unearned portion of the client’s retainer, Respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(b).

The respondent received an admonition in 2001 for failing to act diligently and failing to cooperate in a bar discipline investigation. This matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on an agreed recommendation for discipline by public reprimand based on a stipulation of the parties. On April 12, 2004, The Board of Bar Overseers voted to administer a public reprimand to Respondent.

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



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