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The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts' primary concern in bar discipline cases is the effect upon, and perception of, the public and the bar. In reviewing the Board of Bar Overseer's recommended sanction, therefore, the Supreme Judicial Court must consider what measure of discipline is necessary to protect the public and deter other attorneys from the same behavior. The Supreme Judicial Court gives substantial deference to the board's recommendation, and its task includes determining whether the sanction is markedly disparate from judgments in comparable cases. Fundamentally, each case must be decided on its own merits and every offending attorney must receive the disposition most appropriate in the circumstances.
The attorney was admitted to the bar in 1977 and was employed by a private firm. The attorney was part of an intricate plan to discredit the superior court judge, who presided in a case in which he represented some of the litigants. The aim of the plan was to influence the outcome of the litigation by forcing the judge's recusal and obtain reversal of her prior rulings against the attorney's clients. In furtherance of the scheme, the attorney, with his own investigators posing as corporate executives, set up and secretly made a tape recording of a sham job interview for a former law clerk of the judge, during which the law clerk repeatedly was questioned about the judge's personal and professional character and her decision-making process in the ongoing matter involving the attorney's clients. The attorney then used the taped interview to coax and threaten the law clerk into providing sworn statements damaging the judge. The attorney contested the information filed in the Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk (Massachusetts) by the Board of Bar Overseers, which recommended that the attorney be disbarred. The board alleged that the attorney violated Mass. Sup. Jud. Ct. R. 3:07, Canon 1, DR 1-102(A)(2) and (4)-(6), and Mass. Sup. Jud. Ct. R. 3:07, Canon 7, DR 7-102(A), with regard to his plan to discredit a superior court judge.
Should the attorney be disbarred?
The court found no question that the case called for the attorney's disbarment, particularly as a result of the egregious and extensive nature of his conduct. The court noted the attorney's lack of candor before the special hearing officer as an aggravating factor.