Monday, September 27, 2010
An attorney who had converted entrusted funds was disbarred by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, notwithstanding his recovery from drug addiction:
I agree with the board that even if one were to consider addiction to illegal drugs as a "disability" and a mitigating factor, this is not a case where the factor would change the outcome. The respondent's failure to pay back any part of the funds owed to the client, even after he had been treated, apparently successfully, for his drug addiction, argues in favor of disbarment. See Matter of Dasent. 446 Mass. 1010, 1012-1012 (2006) ("It is established that, where a respondent has intentionally misused client funds, and failed to pay his client all that was due to her, the usual and presumptive sanction is disbarment"). Contrast Matter of Collins, 455 Mass. 1020 (2010) (attorney, who had been addicted to cocaine, completed rehabilitation programs, self-reported misappropriation of client funds to bar counsel, and had paid back more than half amount owing at time of disciplinary proceedings; indefinite suspension ordered with requirement for restitution of remaining amount owed). This conclusion is particularly true when the respondent's other charged and admitted misconduct is factored in, all of which occurred after his addiction had been treated and which his expert witness was unable to say was causally related to the expert's diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
The respondent and his counsel are correct that this is a sad case, and that he is to be commended for remaining drug- and alcohol-free since 2007. But in the circumstances presented, I agree with the board and the hearing committee that disbarment is the appropriate sanction.
The attorney had a separate practice located in his father's law office. (Mike Frisch)