Admonition No. 14-03: Massachusetts Attorney Violates Ethical Rules While Representing Client in Wrongful Termination Suit


The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (“BBO”) has issued an admonition against an attorney for failing to competently handle a legal matter, failing to seek his client’s lawful objectives, and failing to adequately communicate with his client.  In Admonition No. 14-03, the attorney was hired to bring a wrongful termination suit on behalf of a municipal employee, who was terminated as the result of the terms of his union agreement, which favored employees with seniority.

The attorney commenced a lawsuit in federal court under the National Labor Relations Act.  However, the Act excluded claims by state employees against municipalities, and the case was therefore dismissed.

The attorney also failed to file a separate claim with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations prior to the expiration of a six-month statute of limitations.  Thus, the Department dismissed the action.  The attorney also failed to adequately explain to the client that a successful appeal from the Department’s decision was the only way to be reinstated to his original position. Relying on this information, the client permitted the appeals period to expire, and was later foreclosed from taking an appeal.

Subsequently, the BBO commenced disciplinary proceedings against the attorney for his conduct.  The Board held that the attorney violated three separate Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct: (1) failing to conduct sufficient and necessary legal research (Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1), (2) failing to timely file a complaint and thus failing to achieve his client’s lawful objectives (Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a)), and (3) failing to adequately explain the consequences of choosing to not appeal the Department’s decision (Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4(b)).  The Board then issued a formal admonition.

Decision: Admonition No. 1403


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