The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”), has suspended an attorney for four years after finding that he charged excessive legal fees in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(a). The Committee for Public Counsel Services (“CPCS”)is headquartered in Boston, but hires private attorneys to provide free legal services to indigent residents of Massachusetts.
In the Matter of Derek Beauleiu, an attorney was regularly retained by the CPCS to represent children and to serve as a guardian ad litem in various Family Court proceedings. In 2008 and 2009, the attorney billed CPCS for approximately 1,800 hours of legal time for each year.
CPCS paid the attorney, but later determined that these figures were exaggerated and instituted disciplinary proceedings against him with the Board of Bar Overseers (“BBO”). After a hearing before the BBO, the board recommended that the attorney be suspended and that the matter be reviewed by the SJC.
The SJC held that the attorney had submitted false billing records in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c) and his conduct reflected poorly on his fitness to practice law, which is contrary to Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(h). In mitigation, the attorney agreed to make restitution to CPCS over a four-year period. He was thus suspended for that term and is barred from reinstatement until he has repaid those funds.
Decision: In re Derek Beaulieu