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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2008-21



STEVEN T. LADOULIS

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board September 19, 2008.

SUMMARY1


In January of 2007, a client retained the respondent to represent him in evicting non-paying tenants, collecting rents from them, and pursuing a claim against a real estate broker who had fraudulently induced the client to buy two properties at inflated prices and then violated his agreement with the client to serve as the property manager.

The respondent told the client that he would charge a fee of $200 per hour plus expenses. The respondent and the client agreed that the respondent could pay himself from amounts paid to or collected on behalf of the client. The client initially paid the respondent a retainer of $4,500. The respondent later received a bank check of $1,000 from the client and other cash payments for a total of $10,350 (including the original $4,500 retainer).

Between January and August of 2007, the respondent handled some landlord-tenant matters for the client and investigated the potential claims against the real estate broker. In late August 2007, the respondent informed the client that recovery against the broker was unlikely and that the client should file for bankruptcy. Thereafter, the respondent ceased his representation of the client and did not return the client’s telephone calls.

The respondent claimed entitlement to the $10,350 he had received as fees. The $10,350 retained by the respondent as fees was clearly excessive for the services rendered. The respondent did not return any unearned portion of the fees upon discharge.

In January 2008, the client filed a complaint with bar counsel. The respondent subsequently refunded $5,000.00 to the client. The respondent has now assumed inactive status.

By failing to respond to his client’s inquiries, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4. By charging a clearly excessive fee and failing to return the unearned portion of the fee promptly upon discharge, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(a) and 1.16(d).

In aggravation, the respondent received an admonition in 1998 for unrelated misconduct. Ad. No. 98-70, 14 Mass. Att’y Disc. R. 941 (1998).

The matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and a joint recommendation for discipline. On September 8, 2008, the Board voted to accept the parties’ stipulation and to 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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