Friday, November 1, 2013
The full Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of a single justice to deny reinstatement to a disbarred attorney:
The petitioner has not practiced law in the Commonwealth for more than twenty years, and she has not practiced law or worked in a field related to the law for at least ten years. While her reinstatement questionnaire stated that she subscribed to several legal journals, there was no testimony concerning the extent to which she read them. Although the petitioner offered evidence that, prior to 2007, she participated in some continuing legal education programs in other jurisdictions, there was no evidence that she participated in any such programs after 2007. Nor was there any evidence that she participated in any Massachusetts continuing legal education courses whatsoever, or that she spent any time studying Massachusetts law or legal publications. There was no testimony or evidence from any attorney, from Massachusetts or otherwise, supporting her application for reinstatement. This fell short of meeting the substantial burden of establishing present competence in legal skills and learning in the law...
Further, notwithstanding her protestation of innocence of the underlying New York criminal charges, the petitioner's disbarment "is conclusive evidence of [her] lack of moral character at the time of [her] removal from office. And it continues to be evidence against [her] with respect to lack of moral character at later times." Matter of Keenan, supra. Matter of Hiss, supra at 451. The hearing panel properly considered the petitioner's credibility during the hearing, the misconduct alleged in the petition for discipline, her testimony about volunteer work with animals and teaching English, and her failure to make restitution. See Matter of McCarthy, 23 Mass. Att'y Discipline Rep. 469, 470 (2007) (despite legal obligation to do so, "[f]ailure to make restitution, and failure to attempt to do so, reflects poorly on the attorney's moral fitness"). Based on the evidence in the record, which included letters of reference from her pastor, there was no error in the board's conclusion, shared by the single justice, that the petitioner failed to meet her affirmative burden to establish that she has redeemed herself and become "a person proper to be held out by the court to the public as trustworthy." Matter of Dawkins, supra at 1011, quoting Matter of Keenan, supra. Contrast Matter of Ellis, supra at 418; Matter of Hiss, supra at 468.
The case is In the Matter of Patricia Jean Fletcher, decided October 31.
The circumstances of the disbarment are set forth in this summary from the web page of the Board of Bar Overseers.
The petitioner had changed her name after the disbarment. (Mike Frisch)