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Bar News - September 21, 2016


Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee

Santuccio, Danielle Richey advs. Attorney Discipline Office - #13-043

SUMMARY OF SIX MONTH SUSPENSION STAYED ONE YEAR WITH MANDATORY CONDITIONS AND ORDER ON COSTS

This matter arises from a grievance filed by Charles Bradley Perry (“Mr. Perry”) on September 27, 2013. The matter was docketed on October 22, 2013 and referred to disciplinary counsel on December 11, 2014. Mr. Perry’s complaint arises from Ms. Santuccio’s representation of him during post-divorce proceedings. In October 2011, Ms. Santuccio was retained to represent Mr. Perry in his divorce from his wife, Ms. Jodi Perry. During the divorce proceedings, Ms. Santuccio’s representation of Mr. Perry proceeded without any issues related to the representation. On May 1, 2012, the court approved a Final Decree on Petition for Divorce and issued a Decree of Divorce. The Final Decree awarded one-half of Mr. Perry’s IRA and 401(k) to Ms. Perry. It also stated: “If necessary a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) shall be prepared by Danielle Santuccio, Esq. and filed with the Court for approval to be submitted with the Final Proposed Decree within 30 days.”

Rule 1.1: Competence: Ms. Santuccio owed a duty to Mr. Perry to provide competent representation. The May 1, 2012 Final Decree required that Ms. Santuccio prepare and file the QDRO within 30 days. As of the November 26, 2012 contempt hearing, Ms. Santuccio had not filed the QDRO with the Court. The Court’s November 28, 2012 Order held Mr. Perry in contempt and ordered him to pay Ms. Perry an additional $100 for loss of use of her share of the IRA funds and an additional $200 for loss of use of her share of the 401(k). Mr. Perry was also required to pay attorney’s fees and costs of $1,407.65. Ms. Santuccio failed to pay attention to details and schedules necessary to assure that completion of Mr. Perry’s post-divorce matters were undertaken with no avoidable harm to his interests. Ms. Santuccio failed to gather sufficient facts to adequately assist her client and failed to undertake actions on her client’s behalf in a timely and effective manner when she failed to gather sufficient information for her client to effectuate the IRA transfer and she failed to gather sufficient information to complete the QDRO in a timely and effective manner.

Rule 1.3: Diligence: Ms. Santuccio had a duty to act with reasonable promptness and diligence on behalf of her client. Ms. Santuccio breached that duty when she failed to assure that the IRA transfer occurred and the preparation of the QDRO was completed. The May 1, 2012 Decree of Divorce required that Ms. Santuccio prepare and file the QDRO within 30 days. As of the November 26, 2012 contempt hearing, Ms. Santuccio had not filed the QDRO with the Court. The Court’s November 28, 2012 Order required that the QDRO be completed no later than January 15, 2013. As of March 20, 2013, when Mr. Perry was served with the second Motion for Contempt, Ms. Santuccio still had not completed the QDRO or made arrangements with opposing counsel for an extension of time due to the difficulties she faced in preparing the QDRO. Ms. Santuccio failed to act in spite of two inquiries from opposing counsel as to the status of the preparation of the QDRO.

Rule 3.2: Expediting Litigation: Ms. Santuccio owed Mr. Perry a duty to make reasonable efforts to expedite his post-divorce matters in a manner consistent with his interests. Ms. Santuccio breached this duty by failing to reasonably respond to Ms. Lieber’s repeated inquiries as to the status of the transfer of the IRA funds and the preparation of the QDRO. Ms. Santuccio further breached this duty by failing to obtain the necessary information for Mr. Perry to effectuate the IRA transfer in a reasonable period of time; by failing to prepare the QDRO within the time-frame set forth by the Decree of Divorce; and by further failing to prepare the QDRO by the January 15, 2013 court-ordered deadline resulting in harm to Mr. Perry’s interests.

Rule 3.4(c): Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel: The November 28, 2012 order required that Ms. Santuccio prepare the QDRO by January 15, 2013. Ms. Santuccio knew of the Court’s November 28, 2012 order and its requirements. As of March 20, 2013, when Mr. Perry was served with the second Motion for Contempt, Ms. Santuccio still had not completed the QDRO or made arrangements with opposing counsel for an extension of time due to the difficulties she faced in preparing the QDRO.

The Professional Conduct Committee concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that Ms. Santuccio has violated Rules 1.1; 1.3; 3.2; 3.4(c); and 8.4(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Committee issued a Six Month Suspension Stayed One Year with Mandatory 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.

September 9, 2016

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