Monday, August 17, 2009
The web page of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers/Bar Counsel summarizes a recent disciplinary sanction:
On June 19, 2009, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County ordered that the respondent...be suspended from the practice of law for two months effective July 19, 2009. The sanction arose from the respondent’s continuing to practice law after her administrative suspension for failure to pay her annual registration fees.
The respondent received her annual registration statement from the Board of Bar Overseers in February 2005 but failed to respond or to complete and return the registration statement. On November 1, 2005, upon the petition of the Board of Bar Overseers, the court entered an order of administrative suspension against the respondent for her failure to register and pay her annual registration fee.
The order required the respondent immediately to cease practicing law, and, if she was not reinstated within thirty days, to abide by the requirements of S. J. C. Rule 4:01, § 17. The respondent received this order.
Between November 15, 2005, and January 7, 2008, the respondent knowingly disobeyed the order of suspension by holding herself out as a lawyer authorized to practice law in the Commonwealth, accepting fees for legal services, and representing clients both in and outside of court proceedings. She also failed to notify her clients, courts, or opposing counsel of her suspension or otherwise comply with the requirements of S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 17.
The respondent’s failure to register and pay an annual registration fee constituted a violation of S.J.C. Rule 4:02(1) and (3) and S.J.C. Rule 4:03. Her knowing disobedience of her obligations under these rules and of the order of administrative suspension violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c) and 8.4(d) and (h). The respondent's conduct in practicing law after her administrative suspension violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 5.5(a).
In mitigation, the respondent’s failure to register and unauthorized practice occurred during a time when an immediate member of the respondent’s family was suffering from a mental illness and undergoing a serious crisis requiring direct, daily care by the respondent. The burden on the respondent caused substantial stress and significantly distracted the respondent from the requirements of her legal practice.
This matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and rule violations and a joint recommendation for a two-month suspension from the practice of law. On June 8, 2009, the board voted to accept the stipulation and recommend the agreed-upon disposition to the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County. On June 23, 2009, the county court entered an order suspending the respondent for two months, effective July 23, 2009.