Monday, July 1, 2013
The Vermont Supreme Court has imposed a suspension of three months of an attorney who had engineered the wrongful eviction of a client's tenant.
The court noted the facts:
On August 17, 2001, Deputy Sheriff Lavalla, a longtime acquaintance of respondent, met [client's daughter] Gabrielle Glick at respondent’s office and picked up the second letter and the Notice to Vacate with the intention of serving [tenant] Brennan. Deputy Sheriff Lavalla and Gabrielle Glick went to Sandra Glick’s home and served the papers on Brennan and informed her that she was to vacate the premises immediately. Brennan tried to discuss the matter with Deputy Sheriff Lavalla, showing him previous documents which stated that she was not required to vacate the premises until September 9, 2001. Deputy Sheriff Lavalla refused to look at the papers and insisted that she leave immediately. He threatened to handcuff and arrest her if she did not leave.
Chaos ensued. Unable to reach respondent to make sense of the matter, Brennan became hysterical. She had nowhere to go and no one to care for her dog. After locking her belongings in a room in the house, Deputy Sheriff Lavalla took Brennan to the Brattleboro Hospital Emergency Room, at her request. Animal control took the dog. As a result of the sudden eviction, Brennan suffered serious emotional and physical consequences, including post traumatic stress disorder and intermittent homelessness. The circumstances also exacerbated her substance abuse issues.
The court noted that the attorney, who was admitted in 1967, had five prior disciplinary actions:
We find that respondent’s actions were severe. Respondent’s manipulation of the legal system created dire consequences for both his client and Brennan, and he altogether disregarded his duties to uphold the law and maintain professional integrity. Further augmenting the violations arising out of this case are the five previous disciplinary actions, making respondent’s continued refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing particularly egregious. Nonetheless, there are mitigating factors. This matter has been delayed for a long period of time and, in the interim, respondent has not had other violations brought against him. Because the sanctions are not designed to be punitive in nature but rather are imposed to protect the public and the profession, we give strong consideration to the fact that respondent has not violated the rules in the last eleven years and find that a three-month suspension is appropriate.