Bar News - August 15, 2008
NH Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee
Walsh, Richard J. advs.
Attorney Discipline Office #05-053
Walsh, Richard J. advs.
David Kossuth #07-022
PUBLIC CENSURE WITH MANDATORY DIVERSION SUMMARY
The New Hampshire Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee deliberated the matters of Walsh, Richard J. advs. Attorney Discipline Office #05-053 and Walsh, Richard J. advs. David Kossuth #07-022, and issued a Public Censure with Mandatory Diversion on June 12, 2008.
In matter #05-053, Richard J. Walsh, Esquire, filed an appearance on July 28, 2000, on behalf of John Taylor (a minor) and Lana Lynch. John had been seriously injury while playing on property owned by Certified Mortgage Corp. During 2001 and 2002 the trial had been continued. On October 25, 2002, the parties negotiated a settlement of the then-pending lawsuit. Mr. Walsh received a settlement check for $13,000.00. Following settlement, Ms. Lynch had difficulty reaching Mr. Walsh. Once the complaint was filed with the Attorney Discipline Office, Mr. Walsh forwarded Ms. Lynch her file, as well as the unnegotiated check.
In matter #07-022, Mr. Walsh was retained by David Kossuth on or about February 13, 1999, to represent him on an uninsured motorist claim against GEICO, Mr. Kossuth’s carrier. After obtaining the necessary documentary evidence, Mr. Walsh sent a claim to GEICO on December 11, 2003. Mr. Kossuth gave a deposition on November 29, 2004. Mr. Kossuth called Mr. Walsh’s office numerous times without response. Mr. Kossuth heard nothing from Mr. Walsh until December 15, 2006. On or about June 5, 2007, Mr. Walsh secured an arbitration award for Mr. Kossuth of $20,000.00.
The Committee determined that the following findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence in the record, and accepts the Stipulation as to the facts that:
· Mr. Walsh failed to act with reasonable promptness and diligence on his clients’ behalf which caused avoidable harm to their lawyer-client relationship;
· Mr. Walsh failed to keep Ms. Lynch reasonably informed regarding the status of her legal matters;
· Mr. Walsh failed to respond to letters and requests for information on Ms. Lynch’s behalf;
· Mr. Walsh failed to promptly comply with Ms. Lynch’s reasonable requests for information, and
· Mr. Walsh received a settlement check in the amount of $13,000.00 on May 14, 2003, yet failed to negotiate the check or place it in an interest-bearing account on behalf of his client.
· Mr. Walsh failed to timely respond to Mr. Kossuth’s inquiries and otherwise communicate with Mr. Kossuth from the spring of 2005 through December 9, 2006.
The Committee found that there was clear and convincing evidence, and accepts the Stipulation as to the Rule violations that Richard J. Walsh violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct: 1.3(a); 1.4(a); 1.4(b); 1.4(c), and 8.4(a).
Mr. Walsh was issued a Public Censure with Mandatory Diversion, and assessed all costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of these matters. The mandatory diversion component of the sanction requires Mr. Walsh to undergo an office management audit and comply with all recommendations of the auditor.
These matters are public record, and available for inspection at the New Hampshire Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Office, 4 Chenell Drive, Suite 102, Concord, New Hampshire 03301.
July 29, 2008
White, Stephen A.S. advs.
Lucian Tower # 06-009
PUBLIC CENSURE WITH
The New Hampshire Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee deliberated the matter of White, Stephen A.S. advs. Lucian Tower # 06-009, and issued a Public Censure with Conditions on June 10, 2008.
The Strafford County Superior Court appointed Stephen A.S. White, Esquire, to represent Mr. Tower in connection with a criminal matter on August 16, 2004. Mr. White filed an appearance on August 27, 2004, and appeared at a sentencing hearing on September 28, 2004 on behalf of Mr. Tower. The Court imposed lengthy NH State Prison sentences and advised Mr. Tower of his right to sentence review, which was filed on September 30, 2004. On May 6, 2005, the Superior Court Clerk acknowledged the request and indicated that the matter would be scheduled in the next few months unless deferred upon notice of any NH Supreme Court appeal filed on behalf of Mr. Tower. A timely Notice of Appeal was not filed.
On January 6, 2006, Mr. Tower wrote to Mr. White and requested that Mr. White explain why he had not filed a Notice of Appeal. Mr. White did not respond to Mr. Tower’s letter. Mr. White told Mr. Tower that he would see him after the sentencing hearing, but was denied access because there were no visiting hours on that day. Mr. White did not communicate with Mr. Tower or arrange another visit because Mr. White anticipated seeing Mr. Tower before the next sentence review hearing. Mr. White did not believe he had a responsibility under Supreme Court Rule 32(1) to file a Notice of Appeal because he had not served as trial counsel.
Mr. Tower filed a Motion with the NH Supreme Court for leave to file a late appeal and for appointment of counsel, and forwarded a copy of the motion to Mr. White, who did not file a response. On April 20, 2006, the NH Supreme Court granted Mr. Tower’s motion and directed Mr. White to file a Notice of Appeal on Mr. Tower’s behalf.
The Committee determined that the following findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence in the record:
· Mr. White owed Mr. Tower a duty to provide him with competent representation in connection with the pending criminal matter;
· Mr. White breached the duty to act with reasonable promptness and diligence in representing Mr. Tower by failing to file a timely appeal;
· Mr. White breached the duty to keep Mr. Tower reasonably informed regarding the status of the criminal matter and to comply promptly with Mr. Tower’s reasonable requests for information over and extended period of time.
The Committee found that there was clear and convincing evidence that Stephen A.S. White violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct: 1.1(a), 1.1(b), 1.1(c), 1.3(a), 1.4 and 8.4(a).
Mr. White was issued a Public Censure, and ordered to complete mandatory diversion including a formal audit of his office management practices at his own expense, and to implement any and all recommendations made as a result of that audit. A second audit shall be conducted no later than eighteen months thereafter. Mr. White shall also complete six additional CLE credits beyond the minimum requirements in the areas of law office management, criminal appellate procedure and risk management. Mr. White stipulated to pay the costs and expenses of the Professional Conduct Committee in the investigation and prosecution of this matter. This matter is public record, and available for inspection at the New Hampshire Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Office, 4 Chenell Drive, Suite 102, Concord, New Hampshire, 03301.
July 29, 2008