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Bar News - August 17, 2016


NH Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Office

In the Matter of Jamie Mauritz James, Esquire – LD-2016-0009

SUMMARY OF PUBLIC CENSURE

This matter is based on a reciprocal discipline matter from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers of the Supreme Judicial Court. Ms. James was admitted to the bar of the Commonwealth in 1993. She has no history of prior discipline.

Beginning in November of 2012 and continuing through June of 2014, Ms. James transferred responsibility for maintaining her IOLTA account and its records to various bookkeepers, paralegals, secretaries and others in her employ. Ms. James did not make reasonable efforts to ensure that she had in place measures giving reasonable assurance that her employees were conducting themselves in a manner compatible with her professional obligations.

From November of 2012 through June of 2014, Ms. James did not consistently maintain an accurate check register for her IOLTA account with a client identifier after every transaction, a list of every transaction, and a running balance after every transaction. Ms. James did not consistently maintain accurate individual client ledgers with a list of every transaction and running balance for each client matter. Ms. James did not consistently perform a three-way reconciliation of her IOLTA account at least every sixty days. Consequently, during that period of time, certain trust account funds were inadvertently used to pay unrelated client obligations. Ms. James’s failure to properly maintain her IOLTA account also led her to leave earned fees in her IOLTA account, and to erroneously deposit flat fees into that account. On one occasion she deposited personal funds into the IOLTA account.

No client was ever deprived of funds and no client lost funds a result of Ms. James’s negligent maintenance of her IOLTA account. Ms. James has since brought her IOLTA account into compliance with her professional obligations.

This matter went before the Board on a stipulation of the parties waiving hearing and requesting that the matter be resolved by the imposition of a public reprimand. On March 7, 2016, the Board voted to accept the stipulation of the parties and their joint recommendation. On April 7, 2016, Ms. James was publicly reprimanded.

By failing to adequately supervise her employees and by failing to make reasonable efforts to ensure that she had in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that her employees’ conduct was compatible with her professional obligations, Ms. James violated Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3(a) and (b).

By failing to keep a check register with a list of every transaction and with a client identifier and running balance after every transaction, Ms. James violated Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(f)(1)(B). By failing to consistently keep an individual client ledger with a list of every transaction for each client and with a running balance after every transaction, the respondent violated Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(f)(1)(C). By failing to perform a three-way reconciliation of her IOLTA account, Ms. James violated Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(f)(1)(E).

By unintentionally misallocating client funds in her IOLTA account and creating a negative balance for individual clients, Ms. James violated Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(b) and (f)(1)(C). By leaving earned fees in her IOLTA account and by depositing personal funds into her IOLTA account, Ms. James violated Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(b).

The Professional Conduct Committee concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that Ms. James has violated Rules 1.15(f)(1)(B) and (C); 5.3(a) and (b) of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct. The Committee issued a Public Censure, and reimbursement of all costs associated with the investigation and prosecution. An Order is available at www.nhattyreg.org and at the Attorney Discipline Office at 4 Chenell Drive, Suite 102, Concord, NH 03301.

July 20, 2016


In the Matter of Julian H. Lebeck, Esquire – LD-2016-0008

SUMMARY OF PUBLIC CENSURE

This matter is based on a reciprocal discipline matter from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers of the Supreme Judicial Court. The matter arises from Mr. Lebeck’s representation of clients in two immigration cases. Mr. Lebeck was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 2004 and had no history of discipline. In mitigation in the second case, the respondent later made a fee refund to the client.

Case 1: Mr. Lebeck was hired to represent a client who had entered the United States as a minor and was a lawful permanent resident. The client had been apprehended and place in removal proceedings in another state after a misdemeanor conviction. The client’s parents had lived apart but were not legally separated, and only his father was a naturalized citizen. The client had mistakenly believed that he was a citizen. Mr. Lebeck secured the client’s release on bond and had the case transferred to Immigration Court in Boston. The client’s hearing was set for February 2012. In prehearing briefs, Mr. Lebeck erroneously asserted that the client was eligible for derivative citizenship through the father’s naturalization. Derivative eligibility would have been available only if the parents both had been naturalized or were legally separated. In addition, Mr. Lebeck asserted the client’s eligibility for discretionary relief through cancellation of removal. Mr. Lebeck submitted a required application for this relief but failed to include the filing fee, and the application was not accepted for filing. Mr. Lebeck received notice that the application was not on file but failed to take timely corrective action. At the hearing, the court ruled that the client’s application for cancellation of removal had been abandoned for failure to file the required application and entered a removal order. The court indicated that a motion to reopen would be entertained upon payment of the filing fee. Mr. Lebeck paid the fee and the proceedings reopened. The client’s second hearing took place in September 2014. Mr. Lebeck failed to verify before the hearing that the client had obtained updated biometrics as required, and the application for cancellation was dismissed for that reason. The court again ordered the client’s removal. The client subsequently discharged Mr. Lebeck and hired another attorney who moved to stay and reopen the proceedings based on the assertions of ineffective assistance by Mr. Lebeck. The motions were granted in late 2014 and the proceedings reopened for hearing on the merits.

Case 2: In 2011, a naturalized citizen consulted Mr. Lebeck about obtaining immigrant visas for two of the client’s grown children still living in his birth country. The client had filed alien relative petitions for the children some years earlier, but the petitions had not been acted on. Mr. Lebeck agreed to investigate the status of the petitions, correct any deficiencies, and pursue approval of the petitions for a flat fee of $2,500. The client paid the fee. In August 2011, Mr. Lebeck sent a request to the Customs and Immigration Service for copies of records, but he did not include required releases by the client, and the request was denied. Mr. Lebeck submitted new requests with releases in November 2011. Thereafter he had periodic communications with the client but took no further action of substance to advance the petitions. By 2014, the representation had been effectively terminated. The client hired new counsel who reopened and successfully pursued the petitions. Mr. Lebeck had not earned the entire fee paid by the client but failed to make a prompt refund. At Bar Counsel’s request he provided a breakdown of his time and charges at $250 per hour, most of which were for emails and text messages in fifteen-minute increments. Those charges were clearly excessive. The matter went before the Board on a stipulation of the parties waiving hearing and requesting that the matter be resolved by the imposition of a public reprimand. On March 7, 2016, the Board voted to accept the stipulation of the parties and their joint recommendation. On April 7, 2016, the Board publicly reprimanded Mr. Lebeck.

The Professional Conduct Committee concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Lebeck has violated Rules 1.1; 1.3; 1.5(a) and 1.16(d) of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct. The Committee issued a Public Censure, and reimbursement of all costs associated with the investigation and prosecution. An Order is available at www.nhattyreg.org and at the Attorney Discipline Office at 4 Chenell Drive, Suite 102, Concord, NH 03301.

July 20, 2016


Pearson, Michael T. advs. Attorney Discipline Office - #13-026
Pearson, Michael T. advs. Attorney Discipline Office - #14-032

SUMMARY OF SIX MONTH SUSPENSION STAYED ONE YEAR WITH CONDITIONS

Consolidation and Summary: The first matter (docket #13-026) is not as serious as the second matter from a disciplinary perspective. It involves Mr. Pearson’s administrative suspension arising out of his inability to pay child support for a period of time. The second matter (docket #14-031) presents failures of the duties of competence, diligence and client communication with regard to discovery responses in an employment discrimination case filed by Mr. Pearson in federal district court on behalf of four plaintiffs.

Rule 1.1: Competence (#14-032): Mr. Pearson had a duty under Rule 1.1 to perform the techniques of practice with skill, prepare properly, attend to details and schedules sufficiently to assure that his clients’ matter was managed with no avoidable harm to their interests, and undertake action on their behalf in a timely and effective manner. Mr. Pearson violated Rule 1.1 when he failed to appropriately and timely respond to Easter Seals’ propounded discovery and subsequent communications and motions seeking to compel production.

Rule 1.3: Diligence (#14-032): Mr. Pearson had a duty under Rule 1.3 to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing his clients. Mr. Pearson violated Rule 1.3 when he failed to appropriately and timely respond to Easter Seals’ propounded discovery and subsequent communications and motions seeking to compel production.

Rule 1.4: Client Communication (#14-032): Mr. Pearson had a duty under Rule 1.4 to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their matter and to reasonably consult with them about the means by which their objectives were to be accomplished. Mr. Pearson violated Rule 1.4 when he failed to keep his clients reasonably informed of Easter Seals’ demands for production of discovery, threats to file motions to compel, and Easter Seals’ ultimate filing of motions to compel as well as a dispositive motion to dismiss with prejudice.

Rule 3.4(c): Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel (#13-026): Mr. Pearson had a duty under Rule 3.4(c) to pay child support as ordered by the court in his divorce matter. Mr. Pearson breached this duty when he failed to pay child support over a period of approximately seventeen months and was held in contempt by the court for such failure.

Rule 8.4(a): General Rule: Having found the foregoing violations, there is clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Pearson’s conduct, as described herein, violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(a).

The Professional Conduct Committee concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Pearson has violated Rules 1.1; 1.3; 1.4; 3.4(c); and 8.4(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Committee issued a Six Month Suspension Stayed for One Year with Conditions, and reimbursement of all costs associated with the investigation and prosecution. An Order is available at www.nhattyreg.org and at the Attorney Discipline Office at 4 Chenell Drive, Suite 102, Concord, NH 03301.

July 21, 2016

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