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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2005Ė8



JAMES RUSSELL HODGDON

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board June 2, 2005.

SUMMARY1


In March 1998, a client retained the respondent to represent her in an action before the Civil Service Commission in which she alleged that a local public school departmentís decision to terminate her employment was in violation of the Civil Service laws. The respondent represented the client at a hearing before the Civil Service Commission, which resulted in a decision unfavorable to the client.

On February 11, 2000, the respondent filed a complaint for judicial review pursuant to G.L. c. 31, ß 44 in Superior Court. The school department and the Civil Service Commission filed answers, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. The respondentís motion for judgment on the pleadings and supporting memorandum were due within thirty days of the service of the administrative record, and on April 6, 2000, the respondent wrote the client advising her that he would be filing his motion for judgment on the pleadings within the next thirty days.

The respondent thereafter did not file a motion for judgment on the pleadings and supporting memorandum on behalf of the client, nor did he seek an extension of time to file these pleadings out of time. On September 5, 2000, the court issued a Notice of Status Review requiring the respondent, the school department and the Civil Service Commission to apprise the court of the status of the case by September 25, 2000. The notice indicated that if the court did not receive the status report on that date, the complaint would be dismissed. The respondent received this notice from the court.

The school department and the Civil Service Department filed status reports with the court. The respondent did not file a status report, did not file a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and did not take any other action of substance in the case. The respondent did prepare and send a motion for judgment on the pleadings and supporting memorandum to counsel for the Civil Service Commission and the school department pursuant to Superior Court Rule 9A in mid January 2001, but he did not file these pleadings with the court.

On January 31, 2001, the court issued a judgment dismissing the action based on the plaintiffís failure to file a status report. From April 2000 through October 2003, the client called the respondentís office periodically to determine the status of her appeal, and the respondent, unaware of the dismissal, negligently advised the client that her appeal was still pending. In October 2003, the respondent contacted the court and learned that the matter had been dismissed in January 2001. The respondent advised the client that the matter had been dismissed.

On January 26, 2004, the client filed a complaint with the Office of Bar Counsel. The respondent repeatedly failed to respond to Bar Counselís letters asking for an answer to the complaint. On May 11, 2004, the respondent appeared in the Office of Bar Counsel, pursuant to a subpoena issued to compel his appearance.

The respondentís failure to file a motion for judgment on the pleadings and supporting memorandum, his failure to file a motion for an extension of time to file these pleadings out of time, his failure to respond to the courtís Notice of Status Review, and his negligent misrepresentations to the client from 2001 through 2003 that her matter was still pending were in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a), 1.3, and 1.4.

The respondentís failure to cooperate with Bar Counselís investigation, resulting in the issuance of a subpoena to compel his appearance at the Office of Bar Counsel, was in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(g).

In aggravation, the respondent received an admonition on July 14, 2003, for trust account commingling and record-keeping violations and for failure to cooperate in a bar discipline investigation. Admonition No. 03-39, 19 Mass. Attíy Disc. R. 592 (2003). In further aggravation, the instant matter represents the third time Bar Counsel has had to subpoena the respondent to obtain his cooperation.

In mitigation, during the relevant time period, the respondent was overextended and had problems keeping current with his workload as a result of the loss of an associate. From 1989 to 1999, the respondent employed one and sometimes two associates. However, one associate left his employ in 1997 and the second left in November 1999. From November 1999 through 2000, a critical period in the case at hand, the respondentís difficulty in keeping up with his workload was at its most acute. Since then, the respondent has reduced the number of cases that he has undertaken and has instituted new procedures to avoid missing deadlines.

The 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 May 9, 2005, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to administer a public reprimand to the respondent.

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



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