RI Lawyers Disbarred, Suspended, and Censured Since 2015

Monday, September 24, 2018

 

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RI Supreme Court

Nearly twenty lawyers in Rhode Island have been censured, suspended, or disbarred since October 2015, according to state court records. 

This list includes Rhode Island lawyer Joseph Caramadre — who in 2012 pleaded guilty to scamming elderly clients before trying to vacate his plea — who was eventually disbarred in 2016, to suspensions for professional misconduct, and in the case of Dawn M. Vigue Thurston, filing documents bearing clients’ electronic signatures without first obtaining the clients’ actual signatures. 

SLIDES: See Lawyers Who Have Been Disbarred, Suspended or Censured Since October 2015 BELOW

The orders, which can found on the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s “Published Orders” section of the website, also contain lawyers who have previously been disbarred — and subsequently reinstated. 

Included in the reinstatements was Steven A. Murray in 2018 — who had been sentenced to three years in prison for felony assault in 2014, which was suspended with probation. 

The court wrote of Murray’s reinstatement in June 2018:

This matter is before the Court pursuant to a Petition for Reinstatement filed in accordance with Article III, Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure. On October 15, 2014, the petitioner, Steven A. Murray (petitioner or Murray), entered a plea of nolo contendere to one count of felony assault in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-2. He was sentenced to a three-year term of imprisonment, which was suspended with probation. Conditions of his probation included substance-abuse counseling.

Disciplinary Counsel has not uncovered any information, other than petitioner’s above-noted convictions, that reflect adversely on petitioner’s current fitness to be reinstated. A criminal conviction does not create an insurmountable obstacle to the resumption of the practice of law. 

In addition, lawyers could also receive “public censure,” including Richard Fisher in the case of the Newport Bay Club Home Owner Association in January 2018. 

“The relevant facts are undisputed. For many years the respondent has provided legal representation to the Newport Bay Club Home Owner Association, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as NBC). NBC is a not-for-profit corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Rhode Island that is the managing entity of a time-share development and commercial property known as the Newport Bay Club and Hotel located on Thames Street in Newport, Rhode Island. Time-share units are sold by NBC to owners who purchase vacation property for set periods of time, usually in units of one-week duration. Besides the purchase price, unit owners were assessed annual maintenance fees by NBC. If an owner failed to pay the assessed maintenance fees, NBC had the right to foreclose on the delinquent unit owner’s interest in the property…the respondent did not follow the appropriate course of conduct in providing these legal services to NBC.”

The list below is the latest look by GoLocal, since “Booze, Bribes, and Conspiracy: RI Attorneys Disciplined by State Supreme Court” in May 2015. 

 

Related Slideshow: RI Supreme Court—Lawyer Orders October 2015 to June 2018

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October 13, 2015

In the Matter of David M. Fleury

Disbarred

From the order:

The respondent misappropriated not less than $40,000 from an escrow account established in a divorce matter pending in Massachusetts, did not pay those funds to the beneficiaries of the escrow account, and repeatedly failed to appear at scheduled court hearings. 

On April 21, 2015, he filed an affidavit with the Board of Bar Overseers of the Supreme Judicial Court acknowledging that he did not contest those facts, and resigned from the practice of law in the Commonwealth. The Supreme Judicial Court accepted that affidavit and disbarred the respondent. The respondent has not provided this Court with any claim why the identical discipline should not be imposed in this state. 

Accordingly, the respondent, David M. Fleury, is hereby disbarred from the practice of law in this state, effective immediately.

Read the order here

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December 18, 2015

In the Matter of Dawn M. Vigue Thurston

Suspended

From the order:

The trustee alleged that the respondent had filed numerous documents in the Holly and other cases bearing the clients’ electronic signatures without first obtaining the clients’ actual signature in violation of Rule 1008 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and Rule 5005-4(j) of the Rhode Island Local Bankruptcy Rules. 

The purposes of professional discipline are twofold: protection of the public and maintaining the integrity of the profession. In re McBurney, 13 A.3d 654, 655 (R.I. 2011)(mem.). We are satisfied that those two purposes can be served in this matter by imposing a sixty-day suspension from the practice of law in our state courts. Accordingly, we suspend the respondent from the practice of law for a period of sixty days, commencing thirty days from the date of this order.

Read the order here

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December 18, 2015

In the Matter of Thomas J. Howard

Suspended

From the order:

The respondent was aware of the terms of the consent order entered in the Holly case. As a partner in the practice of law with Vigue Thurston in Aurora Law he was a person acting in concert with her, directly or indirectly, in the filing of bankruptcy petitions on behalf of clients of Aurora Law. Accordingly, while he was not a signatory to the consent order, he was proscribed from engaging in the conduct prohibited under the terms of that order.

We are satisfied that the purposes of professional discipline can be served in this matter by imposing a sixty-day suspension from the practice of law, with said suspension to run concurrently with the suspension now in effect. Accordingly, the respondent, Thomas J. Howard, Jr., is hereby suspended from the practice of law for sixty days.

Read the order here
 

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April 5, 2016

In the Matter of Dawn M. Vigue-Thurston

Suspended

From the order:

The sanction recommended by the board is a sixty-day suspension, retroactive to January 18, 2016. As previously noted, we suspended the respondent on that date based upon a petition for reciprocal discipline filed by Disciplinary Counsel on September 30, 2015. The hearing on the instant matter was held before the board while that matter was pending. Had we received the board’s recommendation in this case prior to issuing our suspension order in the reciprocal discipline matter, we would have incorporated these findings into that decision. We do not believe that an additional period of suspension should be imposed due to the independent timing of these two matters being presented for our consideration. 

Accordingly, the respondent, Dawn M. Vigue-Thurston is hereby suspended from the practice of law for a period of sixty days, retroactive to January 18, 2016.

Read the order here
 

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June 6, 2016

In the Matter of Christopher B. Maselli

Reinstatement 

From the order:

The petitioner was admitted to the practice of law in this state on November 5, 1999, he was continually engaged in the practice of law for eleven years, and had not been the subject of any disciplinary charges relating to his practice of law. However, on November 10, 2010, he entered a plea of guilty to an eight count criminal information filed in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island charging him with bank fraud.

On December 16, 2010, after the entry of his guilty plea but prior to the imposition of his sentence the petitioner voluntarily consented to the suspension of his license to practice law. He subsequently was sentenced to a twenty-seven-month term of imprisonment to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.

Disciplinary Counsel has not uncovered any information, other than the petitioner’s conviction, that reflects adversely on his current fitness to return to the practice of law. We do not believe that conviction constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to his resumption of the practice. 

Read the order here
 

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June 17, 2016

In the Matter of Keven A. McKenna

Reinstatement Denied

From the order:

On March 23, 2016, the petitioner filed his reinstatement petition. However, the petitioner has not met all of the requirements for reinstatement set forth in Article III of the Supreme Court Rules. Accordingly, his petition is not ripe for review by this Court. We also note that there are several disciplinary matters currently pending before the Supreme Court Disciplinary Board regarding conduct of the petitioner that occurred both before and after our order of suspension.

Read the order here
 

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September 13, 2016

In the Matter of Louis Marandola

Disbarred

From the order:

On or about July 18, 2016, pursuant to Article III, Rule 13 of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, the respondent filed an affidavit with this Court’s Disciplinary Board setting forth that he is aware he is the subject of an investigation of professional misconduct. The respondent’s affidavit sets forth that he freely and voluntarily consents to disbarment and that he is fully aware of the implications of submitting his consent.

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November 22, 2016

In the Matter of Robert F. McNellis

Public Censure

From the order:

The relevant facts as determined by the board at a hearing on April 19, 2016, arise from the respondent’s association with Hassan Majid Hussein, a non-attorney who offered to provide assistance to members of the public who, as a result of financial need, were seeking to modify existing mortgage loans to reduce their debt burdens. Mr. Hussein, who had previously served a sentence in federal prison for criminal charges involving mortgage fraud, was under investigation by the Department of Attorney General based upon consumer complaints relating to his activities. In April 2013, the respondent represented Hussein at a meeting at the Attorney General’s office at which Hussein was advised that he could only continue to offer loan modification services if he worked under the direct supervision of a duly licensed attorney. The respondent and Hussein agreed that the respondent would act as that supervising attorney. By assuming that role, the respondent subjected himself to the requirements set forth in Article V, Rule 5.3 of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct. 

We accept the board’s recommendation of a public censure in this matter, but the respondent is hereby warned that any future violations will result in the imposition of more serious sanctions. He has had ample opportunity to learn from his errors.

Read the order here

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November 30, 2016

In the Matter of Joseph Caramadre

Disbarment

From the order:

The pertinent facts are as follows. The respondent was a member of the bar of this state. On November 17, 2011 he was charged in a sixty-six count indictment filed in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island which alleged that the respondent had engaged in an investment scheme to defraud insurance carriers by securing the identities of terminally ill people by making direct material misrepresentations and omissions of fact to them, and then purchasing variable annuities and corporate bonds with death-benefit features that utilized these ill patients as the measuring life.

The respondent now has exhausted all avenues of appeal, and Disciplinary Counsel’s motion to disbar may therefore be granted. Accordingly, it is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed that the respondent, Joseph Caramadre, be and he is hereby disbarred from engaging in the practice of law. The effective date of this order of disbarment is retroactive to the date of his suspension, February 20, 2014.

Read the order here
 

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December 1, 2016

In the Matter of Oleg Nikolyszyn

Suspended

From the order:

On October 12, 2016, this Court’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel filed a Petition for Interim Suspension which avers that the respondent, Oleg Nikolyszyn, a member of the Rhode Island Bar, has engaged in serious professional misconduct. The respondent has requested that he be allowed to resign from the practice of law in lieu of being suspended on an interim basis, while acknowledging that he would remain subject to the disciplinary authority of the Court for any professional misconduct he may have committed while a member of the Bar.

Accordingly, it is ordered, adjudged and decreed that the respondent, Oleg Nikolyszyn, is hereby suspended from the practice of law in this state until further order of this Court. It is further ordered that David D. Curtin, Chief Disciplinary Counsel, be appointed as Special Master to take possession of the respondent’s client files and accounts; to inventory them; and to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the clients’ interests.

Read the order here

 

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February 7, 2017

In the Matter of George Philip

Disbarred

From the order:

The facts giving rise to the respondent’s disbarment in the Commonwealth are briefly summarized as follows.1 In late 2008, the respondent was involved in a group drive of automobile enthusiasts in Massachusetts. Tragically, the driver of the vehicle immediately in front of the respondent’s vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian. The respondent was a potentially necessary witness in any future civil or criminal action that could ensue from this incident, and may also have been subject to possible civil liability due to his participation in the group drive. Despite these glaring conflicts, the respondent offered to provide legal representation to the other driver, and failed to obtain his informed consent to the conflicts. 

Read the order here
 

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May 19, 2017

In the Matter of Gail A. Balser

Suspended

From the order: 

The respondent’s conduct giving rise to these proceedings is as follows. First, while respondent was serving as the secretary and trustee of a corporation created for the purpose of developing real estate, she converted real estate that properly belonged to the corporation to her own use by amending the name of the grantee of a deed to the corporation to her own name, and recording the amended deed. She then recorded deeds to different units in the real estate development to herself and her mother, leased and sold units for profit, and subsequently lied under oath about having done so.

We find that the discipline imposed by our sister jurisdiction is appropriate for her level of misconduct. She engaged in a pattern of deceitful conduct relating to several clients, and provided false testimony at a deposition, a trial, and her disciplinary hearing. She misappropriated funds that had been entrusted to her by a client. A four-year suspension is clearly warranted. Accordingly, the respondent, Gail A. Balser, is hereby suspended from the practice of law in this state for four years, commencing from the date of this order.

Read the order here
 

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June 9, 2017

In the Matter of Nicholas S. Gelfuso

Suspended

From the order:

The facts of this matter are as follows. The respondent represented a party on an appeal from an order of the Superior Court granting declaratory judgment in favor of an adverse party. The appeal was docketed in this Court, but the respondent failed to file a statement of the case as required by Article I, Rule 12A of the Supreme Court Rules of Appellate Procedure.1 On May 10, 2017, the Clerk of the Supreme Court sent notice to the respondent that the appeal had been dismissed for failure to timely file his statement of the case, but that the dismissal would be vacated and the appeal reinstated if the statement of the case was filed on or before May 20, 2017. He did not file a statement of the case by that date.

However, on May 22, 2017, the respondent submitted via email to a Deputy Clerk of the Court what purported to be a statement of the case. It is that attempted filing which drew the immediate attention of this Court. The respondent’s attempted filing was rambling, incoherent, and completely failed to address his failure to timely file his statement of the case or set forth any cogent statement of the issues sought to be raised on appeal. Moreover, his filing was replete with scurrilous accusations alleging unethical and criminal conduct by the trial justice and the attorney representing the opposing party. Additionally, the respondent made outlandish allegations regarding the character of each justice of this Court. 

Read the order here
 

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September 7, 2017

In the Matter of Vincent J. Mitchell

Disbarred

From the order:

On or about September 5, 2017, pursuant to Article III, Rule 13 of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, the respondent filed an affidavit with this Court’s Disciplinary Board setting forth that he is aware he is the subject of an investigation of professional misconduct. The respondent’s affidavit sets forth that he freely and voluntarily consents to disbarment and that he is fully aware of the implications of submitting his consent.

Read the order here
 

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October 20, 2017

In the Matter of William F. Holt

Reinstatement

From the order:

On November 24, 2014, this Court entered an order suspending the petitioner, William F. Holt, from the practice of law in this state for three years, with an effective date of May 1, 2014. In re Holt, 103 A.3d 147 (R.I. 2014). His suspension was based upon findings by the Supreme Court Disciplinary Board that he had violated multiple Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of four clients in proceedings before the Family Court. As we noted, the petitioner had repeatedly disregarded both procedural and ethical rules in pursuing a “win at all costs” strategy on behalf of his clients. Id. at 152. On May 4, 2017, he filed a petition for reinstatement in accordance with Article III, Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure.

Read the order here
 

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October 31, 2017

In the Matter of Joseph P. Fingliss

Suspended

From the order:

In the first case, the respondent represented a Massachusetts resident injured at work in the state of Rhode Island. The client received benefits pursuant to Rhode Island’s Workers’ Compensation Act from his employer. He also had potential claims against other parties liable for his injuries, and his wife also had potential claims of her own for loss of consortium. The respondent provided incompetent representation regarding both his client’s and his client’s wife’s potential claims. He failed to make a claim for loss of consortium or even advise the client’s wife she had a potential claim. He brought a civil action regarding the client’s thirdparty claims in Massachusetts, which lacked jurisdiction to decide those claims. The Massachusetts action was dismissed.

The respondent belatedly sought to pursue those claims on his client’s behalf in Rhode Island, but those claims were dismissed as time barred pursuant to the applicable statute of limitations. Additionally, the respondent made material misrepresentations to his client regarding a settlement offer provided by an insurance carrier. 

Read the order here
 

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November 17, 2017

In the Matter of Marin S. Malinou

Suspended

From the order:

The relevant facts as determined by the board are as follows. Ida and Yolanda D’Amore were elderly sisters residing in a nursing home in Cranston, Rhode Island. On February 13, 2014, a petition to appoint temporary guardians was filed in the Cranston probate court alleging that the sisters were no longer competent to handle their personal and financial affairs. On February 18, 2014, the court entered an order appointing Donald M. D’Amore and Barbara H. Neri to serve as temporary co-guardians over the person and the estate of both D’Amore sisters, and the matter was continued to determine whether the appointment of the temporary coguardians should become permanent. The respondent entered his appearance in the probate court proceedings and filed an objection to the appointment of the co-guardians, purportedly acting on behalf of both Ida and Yolanda. 

After a hearing on March 8, 2014, the court entered an order continuing the temporary guardianship in effect and authorizing the parties to engage in discovery to determine the financial affairs of the D’Amores. On April 19, 2014, the respondent became aware that an account existed at a local bank that was jointly titled to both D’Amores and an unrelated third party. That account contained a substantial amount of money. The respondent did not notify the co-guardians or the probate court of the existence of this account. The co-guardians became aware of the existence of this account as a result of a subpoena issued to the bank during the course of discovery.

Read the order here

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December 4, 2017

In the Matter of Angelo A. Mosca

Disbarred

From the order:

On or about October 26, 2017, pursuant to Article III, Rule 13 of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, the respondent filed an affidavit with this Court’s Disciplinary Board setting forth that he is aware he is the subject of an investigation of professional misconduct. The respondent’s affidavit sets forth that he freely and voluntarily consents to disbarment and that he is fully aware of the implications of submitting his consent.

Read the order here

 

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January 9, 2018

In the Matter of Richard Fisher

Public Censure

From the order:

The relevant facts are undisputed. For many years the respondent has provided legal representation to the Newport Bay Club Home Owner Association, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as NBC). NBC is a not-for-profit corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Rhode Island that is the managing entity of a time-share development and commercial property known as the Newport Bay Club and Hotel located on Thames Street in Newport, Rhode Island. Time-share units are sold by NBC to owners who purchase vacation property for set periods of time, usually in units of one-week duration. Besides the purchase price, unit owners were assessed annual maintenance fees by NBC. If an owner failed to pay the assessed maintenance fees, NBC had the right to foreclose on the delinquent unit owner’s interest in the property…the respondent did not follow the appropriate course of conduct in providing these legal services to NBC. 

Read the order here
 

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January 29, 2018

In the Matter of Joseph P. Casale

Disbarred

From the order:

On December 30, 2017, pursuant to Article III, Rule 13 of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure for Attorneys, the respondent, Joseph P. Casale, filed an affidavit with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court setting forth that he is aware that he is the subject of an investigation into professional misconduct. The respondent’s affidavit sets forth that he freely and voluntarily consents to disbarment, and that he is fully aware of the implications of submitting his consent.

Read the order here 
 

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May 17, 2018

In the Matter of Sean M. McAteer

Public Censure

From the order:

In an ex parte proceeding, a lawyer shall "inform the tribunal of all material facts known to the lawyer that will enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, whether or not the facts are adverse.” The respondent clearly owed a duty of zealous representation to his client. However, he also had a duty to inform the court in an ex parte proceeding of all material facts, even those adverse to his clients. In this matter, the court was clearly misled to believe that the Ruggieris had not received a refund of their deposit, when that was not the case.

Read the order here 
 

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June 19, 2018

In the Matter of Steven A. Murray

Reinstatement

From the order:

This matter is before the Court pursuant to a Petition for Reinstatement filed in accordance with Article III, Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure. On October 15, 2014, the petitioner, Steven A. Murray (petitioner or Murray), entered a plea of nolo contendere to one count of felony assault in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-2. He was sentenced to a three-year term of imprisonment, which was suspended with probation. Conditions of his probation included substance-abuse counseling.

Disciplinary Counsel has not uncovered any information, other than petitioner’s above-noted convictions, that reflect adversely on petitioner’s current fitness to be reinstated. A criminal conviction does not create an insurmountable obstacle to the resumption of the practice of law. 

Read the order here
 

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June 19, 2018

In the Matter of Joel D. Landry

Reinstatement

From the order:

On January 10, 2003, while facing formal disciplinary charges alleging serious financial mismanagement of his law firm client account, the petitioner submitted an affidavit to this Court acknowledging that he would not contest the allegations, freely admitting that he had diverted client funds for an improper purpose, and voluntarily consenting to his disbarment from the practice of law in this state. We accepted his affidavit, and on February 14, 2003, we entered an order disbarring petitioner from the practice of law.

We believe that, with strict supervision in effect, petitioner can return to the productive practice of law in this state.

Read the order here
 

 
 

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