The Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) in Boston, Massachusetts has entered a judgment of disbarment of a Massachusetts attorney, who practiced law in Rhode Island without a license and misused client funds. In the matter of David R. Ardito, a lawyer had a longstanding friendship with a married couple from Rhode Island. In 2005, the wife sustained personal injuries in an auto accident and as the result of a slip and fall at a local store.
Both incidents occurred in Rhode Island, and although he was not licensed to practice law there, he offered to represent the wife, pro bono. In doing so, the attorney misrepresented his qualifications in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(a)(1). The wife agreed to hire the attorney, and he commenced separate actions against the other driver and the store which constituted the unauthorized practice of law contrary to Mass. R. Prof. C. 5.5(a). Two years later, he settled both cases without informing the couple. He received settlement checks and signed them on behalf of the couple without their authority, deposited the funds into his lawyers trust account, and never dispersed them to the couple.
Over the following years, the wife made repeated inquiries about the status of the cases. The lawyer falsely ensured her that the lawsuits were ongoing. Eventually, the woman became suspicious and filed a petition with the Board of Bar Overseers (“BBO”), who instituted disciplinary proceedings.
The lawyer did not respond to the allegations and a default judgment was entered against him. His failure to participate in the proceedings was a violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c), 8.1(b), 8.4(d) and (g) and S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 3(1)(b), and as a result he was administratively suspended from practicing law in Massachusetts. He violated the terms of his suspension by failing to notify the couple of his suspension and for not timely closing his IOLTA account which constituted additional ethical violations.
Thereafter, in May, 2013, the attorney submitted an affidavit to the BBO, by which he agreed to resign. The BBO and recommended to the SJC that he be disbarred. The SJC accepted the attorney’s resignation and entered a judgment of disbarment.
Decision: In re David R. Ardito