Legal Ethics

Divorce Trifecta Results in Discipline for Counsel, Attorney Client and Lawyer Employer

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A Massachusetts disciplinary matter concerning the handling of an attorney’s divorce has resulted in a legal ethics trifecta: The counsel who handled the divorce has been reprimanded, the attorney client was suspended from practice for three months and her lawyer employer was suspended for one month, the Legal Profession Blog reports.

At issue ethically were misrepresentations made concerning the income of Kathleen E. Kilkenny in a contested divorce proceeding.

Kilkenny, who was suspended for three months in 2010 by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has already been reinstated.

The court last year also imposed a one-month suspension on her lawyer employer, William R. Hammatt (PDF), who agreed to pay Kilkenny under an independent contractor arrangement. He knowingly agreed to help her send a misleading letter to her husband’s counsel concerning her income, the court’s Board of Bar Overseers found.

And last month the court meted out a public reprimand to Steven S. DeYoung (PDF), who filed a court document in which a space in which Kilkenny was supposed to insert her annual income for the previous year was intentionally left blank.

A hearing committee had called for a two-month suspension for DeYoung, but the Board of Bar Overseers imposed and the court upheld the reprimand, apparently agreeing with the attorney that such a sanction would be, as DeYoung put it, “markedly disparate from the discipline imposed in comparable cases.”

Characterizing DeYoung’s conduct as “passive,” the board said in a memorandum that he “made no affirmative misrepresentation, and he was … motivated by a desire to settle a difficult case, not to delude the court or the other side.”

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