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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2005-10


Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board June 27, 2005.


In late 1995 or early 1996, the respondent was engaged to represent a client in a personal injury claim arising from a fall in December 1994. The respondent filed suit for the client in December 1997 but named the wrong party as defendant, and he failed subsequently to substitute the proper party or effect service on the named defendant. The lawsuit was dismissed in April 1998 for lack of service. The respondent did not receive notice of the dismissal from the court. He did not thereafter ascertain the status of the case on his own or take other action of substance on the client's behalf. As a result, the dismissal was never vacated, and the client's claim was ultimately extinguished

The respondent's conduct through December 31, 1997 violated Canon Six, DR 6 101(A)(1)-(3) (incompetence; inadequate preparation; neglect), and Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a), and 1.3 (failure to provide competent representation, seek lawful objectives of client, or act with reasonable diligence and promptness) starting January 1, 1998.

In a second case, the respondent was appointed in 2001 as a bar advocate to represent a client on criminal charges in the superior court. The respondent handled the case through trial, which resulted in guilty verdicts in February 2002. The client, who was incarcerated, told the respondent that he wanted to appeal, and the respondent filed a timely notice of appeal on the client's behalf. Under the procedures of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) applicable to bar advocates, the respondent, after noticing the appeal, should have moved to withdraw and have other counsel appointed to represent the client on appeal. Pending the appointment or appearance of successor counsel and permission from the court to withdraw, the respondent was obligated to continue representing the client. The respondent, however, failed timely to move for leave to withdraw, seek the appointment of other counsel, or otherwise protect the client's appeal rights. The appeal was entered in May 2003 with the respondent as attorney of record but dismissed for lack of prosecution in August 2003. The client subsequently obtained new counsel through CPCS and had his appeal reinstated.

The respondent's conduct violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a), 1.3, and 1.16(c) and (d) (termination of representation without leave of court; failure to take reasonably practicable steps to protect client's interest).

In aggravation, the respondent had been admonished in 1996 for neglect of a personal injury claim. Admonition No. 96 47, 12 Mass. Att'y Disc. R. 678 (1996). In mitigation, after the dismissal of the personal injury case came to light, the respondent paid compensation to the client for the loss of her claim.

The matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and an agreed recommendation for discipline by public reprimand. On June 20, 2005, the Board voted to accept the parties’ recommendation and impose a public reprimand.

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

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