BBO summaries: Nov. 26.

 
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Byline: Mass. Lawyers Weekly Staff

The following summary was compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record of proceedings before the board.

BBO Public Reprimand No. 2018-15

In re: Bradley R. Cook

160 Federal Street, 20th Floor

Boston, MA, 02110

Order (public reprimand) entered by the board on Nov. 13, 2018

The respondent stipulated to a public reprimand for having an administrative assistant in his office notarize a client's will even though the assistant was not present at the time the will was signed.

Summary

In March 2013, the respondent, Bradley R. Cook, agreed to create a will and trust for an elderly, hospitalized client, with whom he had no previous relationship. On March 14, 2013, after drafting the will and trust, the respondent, another lawyer from the respondent's firm and the client's financial adviser met with the client at her hospital bedside.

During the meeting, the respondent briefly explained to the client the general import of the documents, which the client then executed. The respondent and the other attorney, who was also a notary, signed the documents as witnesses. Although the respondent had intended for the other attorney to notarize the client's and the witnesses' signatures, the other attorney could not do so because he had signed as a witness.

On the following day, the respondent asked a firm administrative assistant, who was a notary, to notarize the client's and the witnesses' signatures. She did so. The respondent knew that the administrative assistant had not been present when the client executed the documents and that she had no familiarity with the client's signature.

The client died a few days later on March 20, 2013. On April 17, 2013, the respondent caused the will with the false notarization to be filed in the Essex County Probate Court. He sought the appointment of himself and a relative of the client's as special co-personal representatives. On or about May 6, 2013, the client's niece, nephews and brother filed an opposition to the will. On May 16, 2013, the respondent withdrew his appearance and renounced his appointment as personal representative.

By filing the will with the false notarization, the respondent misrepresented to the court that the notary had witnessed the signatures on the will when she had not done so, in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.3(a)(1) and 8.4(c)(d) and (h).

By directing a non-attorney employee to notarize signatures that she had not witnessed, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 5.3 (c).

The respondent had practiced for many years and had no prior discipline. This matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on an agreed recommendation for discipline by public reprimand based on a stipulation of the parties. On October 15, 2018, the Board of Bar Overseers voted to administer a public reprimand to Respondent.

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The following summaries were compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record filed with the Supreme Judicial Court. The complete court orders are available by contacting the clerk of the SJC.

SJC No. BD-2017-106

In re: Jasmin Polanco

P.O. Box 1826

Lawrence, MA, 01842

SJC order of disbarment entered by Justice Gaziano on Oct. 25, 2018

The respondent resigned and was disbarred following her conviction on federal bank fraud charges. She participated in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders with sham short sales and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment followed by supervised release.

Summary

On March 27, 2017, Jasmin Polanco (respondent) pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1349, a felony. The conviction resulted from the respondent's participation as a lawyer with others in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders with sham short sales of homes. On June 21, 2018, the respondent was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. The respondent was ordered to make restitution, jointly with others convicted of the same conspiracy, in the total amount of $1,224,489.02.

On August 29, 2018, the respondent filed an affidavit of resignation with the Board of Bar Overseers. In her affidavit, the respondent acknowledged that she had pleaded guilty to criminal charges as described above. On September 28, 2018, the board unanimously voted to recommend that the respondent's resignation be accepted and that she be disbarred, retroactive to December 12, 2017, the date of a temporary suspension entered pending further disciplinary proceedings. On October 25, 2018, the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County (Gaziano, J.) so ordered.

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SJC No. BD-2018-094

In re: Anna Shapiro

300 Trade Center, Suite 3700

Woburn, MA, 01801

SJC order of term suspension/stayed entered by Justice Budd on Nov. 2, 2018

The respondent stipulated to a three-month suspension, stayed for one year, for excessively billing three clients. The misconduct included billing at a lawyer's rate for administrative tasks. The Supreme Judicial Court approved the stipulation and imposed certain conditions, including that the respondent resolve a fee arbitration matter with one of the clients. In mitigation, the respondent had refunded to the other two clients some of the fees that they had paid.

Summary

The respondent is the proprietor and chief executive officer of a law firm. This matter arises out of three separate client relationships in which the respondent, either as the senior attorney assigned to a case or as the person responsible for establishing the firm's billing policies and for reviewing and approving firm invoices, charged and collected clearly excessive fees in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(a).

In the first such case, a client retained the respondent's firm in April 2016 to represent him in opposing the extension of an existing 209A restraining order that his wife had obtained. The client also retained the firm to represent him in a complaint for divorce. The client executed identical forms of hourly fee agreements for both engagements. Among other provisions, the agreements provided for fees of $225 per hour for "work performed by the Paralegals, Legal Assistants and Administration."

During the representation, the firm presented to the client four bills in the restraining order matter and five invoices in the divorce matter. The bills in both matters included time entries in which the firm charged $225 per hour for routine administrative tasks. These tasks included uploading documents to the client's electronic file, preparing documents for "dispatch," and reviewing the firm's calendar to coordinate meeting dates with the client. The $225 hourly rate for administrative tasks was clearly excessive.

For work performed during the period of April 12, 2016, to May 16, 2016, the firm charged the client $5,639.70 on the restraining order matter and $21,058.84 on the divorce matter. Such fees were clearly excessive. The respondent's firm represented the client for just over one month in both matters before the client terminated the representation.

In the second case, a client retained the respondent's firm to represent her in regard to a modification of a child support agreement and the termination of the father's custodial rights. This representation was pursuant to a written fee agreement that...

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