Monday, April 29, 2013

Stay Registered

The full Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a single justice's order of a six-month suspension for misconduct described in the court's opinion:

The respondent was admitted to the practice of law in December, 2008, and duly registered with the Board of Bar Overseers (board) in January, 2009. When her employment address changed, she did not file a supplemental statement of changes to the information provided in her initial registration statement, nor did she file a registration statement or pay the associated fee as required in January, 2010. S.J.C. Rule 4:03(1)(a), as amended, 416 Mass. 1319 (1993). Accordingly, on June 14, 2010, the board filed a petition in the county court seeking Gustafson's suspension as an administrative matter. See S.J.C. Rule 4:02(3), as amended, 447 Mass. 1301 (2006); S.J.C. Rule 4:03(2), as appearing in 421 Mass. 1302 (1995). An order suspending her from the practice of law entered on July 26, 2010. Thirty days later, Gustafson became subject to the provisions of S.J.C. Rule 4:01, ยง 17, as amended, 426 Mass. 1301 (1997), governing suspended attorneys. She did not comply with those requirements.

Notwithstanding her administrative suspension, in November, 2010, Gustafson was hired as in-house counsel at a company having its headquarters in Massachusetts. She submitted a registration statement, an affidavit in support of her request for reinstatement, and a check to the board on or about November 11, 2010. The board returned the check, advising her that she owed additional amounts. It indicated that, when the fees were paid, it would present her request for reinstatement to the court. Gustafson did not respond. Eight months later, in July, 2011, bar counsel received a request for investigation alleging that, despite her ongoing suspension, Gustafson continued to be employed as an attorney.

Gustafson did not respond to the complaint, which was forwarded to her by bar counsel. Nor did she respond to a subpoena that the board caused to be served on her. Contacted by telephone, however, she agreed to appear on October 3, 2011. On that day, she admitted to employment as an attorney and was provided with a complete set of registration materials, none of which she returned. On February 9, 2012, bar counsel filed a petition for discipline. Gustafson failed to file a timely answer to the petition or otherwise cooperate in the investigation, and her default was entered.

Bar Counsel had appealed, seeking a more severe sanction.

The case is Matter of Gustafson, decided April 16, 2013. (Mike Frisch)

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