Monday, August 24, 2009

Double Or Nothing

A summary from the web page of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers:

On March 4, 2009, the respondent...was disbarred by the Supreme Court of California. The respondent had been admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1983 and the California bar in 1986. He practiced with the firm of Belli and McLean in California from 1986 until his disbarment. He was administratively suspended in Massachusetts for failure to register in 2005. The circumstances resulting in the respondent’s disbarment were as follows.

The respondent represented a client and her spouse in a personal injury case against a Nevada casino. The case settled for $250,000 in November of 2002. The respondent gave the clients $100,000 from the settlement proceeds and told them he would hold their remaining share, approximately $90,000, for payment of liens. From December of 2002 through December of 2004, the respondent misappropriated all but $375 of the clients’ funds.

In March of 2003, the respondent filed a malpractice case for the clients against prior counsel in the casino case. That case settled for $30,000 in May of 2005. The respondent then misappropriated the clients’ settlement proceeds by September of 2005.

In February of 2006, the respondent confessed to his clients that he had spent their money and began making restitution. The clients filed a bar grievance in August of 2006. The respondent made full restitution by January of 2008. In May of 2007, the respondent filed for bankruptcy and listed his clients as creditors. His listed their address, however, as his office address and did not give them notice of the bankruptcy filing or of any deadlines for filing a proof of claim. Finally, the respondent asked the clients to tell the state bar that they had given the respondent permission to use their funds, when they had not done so.

In mitigation, the respondent suffered emotional and financial difficulties at the time of his misconduct. His firm had won a large number of product liability cases in the 1990’s but the defendant had filed for bankruptcy. The respondent was involved in an acrimonious divorce proceeding with ongoing custody and visitation issues. In aggravation, the respondent committed multiple acts of misconduct involving misappropriations and misrepresentations.

The respondent did not report the California disbarment to Massachusetts bar counsel, as required by S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 16(6).

On May 14, 2009, bar counsel filed a petition for reciprocal discipline with the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County. The Court issued an Order Of Notice giving the respondent 30 days to show cause why reciprocal discipline should not be ordered in Massachusetts. The respondent did not reply to the order of notice. On July 2, 2009, the Court (Spina, J.) entered an order disbarring the respondent, effective immediately, and striking the respondent’s name from the Roll of Attorneys.

The case is In re McLean, order entered on July 2, 2009. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2009/08/double-or-nothing.html

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