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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. PR 99-10



The respondent was a party to acrimonious post-divorce custody and visitation proceedings pending in the Probate and Family Court. On October 22, 1997, the Court held the respondent in contempt of court for failing to comply with an April 12, 1996 order to pay $7,000.00 in attorney’s fees. In addition, the respondent was sanctioned an additional $1,000.00 in attorney fees for failure to appear in Court on a scheduled hearing date of February 7, 1997. The respondent was assessed another $1,000 for obstructing her former husband’s court-ordered visits. This additional $1,000 was to be placed in an educational account for the children. On October 31, 1997 the respondent filed a notice of appeal, but never perfected the appeal.

The respondent failed to comply with the October 22, 1997 order. She established an account in her own name the amount of $1,000.00 and did not pay the remaining $8,000.00. On November 25, 1997, the Court imposed a jail sentence. The respondent was ordered to serve fifteen (15) consecutive weekends in the county jail. The Court stated in the accompanying memorandum that the respondent was not going to jail for preventing her children from seeing their father but for her failure to comply with the court order to pay attorney’s fees and money into an educational account for the children. The Court found that the respondent had the ability to borrow funds and that the respondent had other assets which could have been liquidated or mortgaged in order to pay the judgment of contempt. The respondent filed a motion to stay pending appeal, contesting the Court’s findings and asserting that she did not have the ability to pay, borrow the funds, or obtain a mortgage. The motion was denied.

After serving one weekend in jail, the respondent complied with the order of October 22, 1997 and was purged of contempt. Payment was made by a local support group formed for the respondent.

The respondent’s failure to comply with a court order for approximately fifteen (15) months constituted a violation of Disciplinary Rule 1-102(A)(5).

The matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation for discipline by public reprimand. The Board accepted the parties’ recommendation and imposed a public reprimand on January 10, 2000.

1 Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board on January 10, 2000.

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