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Bar News - May 13, 2011


NH Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee

James, John J., Jr. advs. Karen Bachler #09-006
SIX MONTH SUSPENSION STAYED FOR TWO YEARS SUMMARY

On February 15, 2011, the Professional Conduct Committee deliberated the above captioned matter and issued a Six Month Suspension Stayed for Two years Contingent on Compliance with Terms and Conditions of the Order to John J. James, Jr., Esquire, for violation of N.H. Rules Prof. Conduct 1.1: Competence; Rule 1.3: Diligence; Rule 1.4: Communications; Rule 8.1: Failure to Cooperate; and Rule 8.4(a): Misconduct.

Mr. James was hired by the Complainant to represent her in a trust matter. The trust expressly made no provision for the Complainant or her children. Mr. James filed a Petition for Estate Administration on or about April 23, 2008, in Rockingham County Probate Court. On April 24, 2008, the Court informed Mr. James of several problems with the filing. On June 18, 2008, the Probate Court contacted Mr. James again and informed him that the Legatees and Devisees form was completed in error, and other forms remained outstanding. Mr. James filed a Motion for Instructions. The Court scheduled a hearing on Mr. James’ Motion and sent the Complainant notice of the hearing date. The hearing was rescheduled and the Complainant was again given notice of the date.. Mr. James told the Complainant that she did not need to attend the hearing. On September 15, 2008, when Mr. James did not attend the hearing, the Motion was denied. After many attempts to contact Mr. James, the Complainant sent an email on December 8, 2008, terminating their relationship and demanding a refund of the $3,000. retainer.

On March 9, 2009, Complainant filed her grievance with the Attorney Discipline Office and it was docketed. Mr. James was notified that he had 30 days to respond. He did not respond. On May 4, 2009, Mr. James was sent another letter, reminding him that his failure to cooperate would result in a referral to Disciplinary Counsel for a Rule 8.1(b) violation.

The following violations of the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct were found, by clear and convincing evidence:
  • Rule 1.1: Competence: Mr. James owed the Complainant a duty to identify areas beyond his competence and bring those areas to the Complainant’s attention.
     
  • Rule 1.3: Diligence: Mr. James owed a duty to the Complainant to act with reasonable diligence and promptness.
     
  • Rule 1.4(a)(3) and 1.4(a)(4): Communications: Mr. James breached this duty by neglecting to keep his client reasonably informed.
     
  • Rule 8.1(b): Failure to Cooperate: Mr. James’ failure to respond to the Attorney Discipline Office’s correspondence represents a knowing failure to respond to a lawful demand for information.
     
  • Rule 8.4(a): Misconduct: A violation of any Rule of Professional Conduct necessarily constitutes a violation of Rule 8.4(a).
Mr. James violated certain duties to his client, and to the profession. The Committee found that Mr. James acted knowingly with respect to each of his violations, and caused serious injury to the profession. Mr. James had prior disciplinary offenses, failed to comply with Rules and Orders of the Attorney Discipline Office, and had substantial experience in the practice of law. The Committee found no selfish or dishonest motive.

The Committee imposed a six month suspension, stayed for two years if he complies with multiple conditions of the stay. Mr. James was assessed all costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of this matter. The file is available for inspection at the Attorney Discipline Office, 4 Chenell Drive, Suite 102, Concord, NH. The Stayed Suspension is posted at www.nhattyreg.org.

April 15, 2011

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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