Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 38793
Attorney Name Mark, Dennis J.
DBP Docket No. 140 DB 2001 & 7 DB 2002
Supreme Court Docket No. No. 875 DD # 3
County Lackawanna
Disciplinary Counsel Patti S. Bednarik
Counsel for Respondent Sal Cognetti
Decision Date 2003-12-10
Effective Date 2004-01-10
Case Digest Respondent was charged with neglect and failure to communicate in five separate client matters. In determining the correct level of discipline to be imposed in matters of neglect, the Board considers several factors including: the number of matters neglected, the length of time during which the neglect occurred, whether the neglect involved multiple clients, whether Respondent made misrepresentations to hide his neglect, Respondent’s level of experience in the practice of law, whether Respondent’s actions prejudiced his clients, his level of remorse, his cooperation in disciplinary proceedings, and whether there were any Braun mitigating factors. Respondent neglected five separate cases in seven years. The initial instance of neglect began in 1993 and continued until the case was dismissed in January 2000. In another case, the client expected an answer within a few days after hiring Respondent on June 28, 2000. She found another lawyer to answer her landlord/tenant question in mid-July. In a third case, Respondent was retained in February 2000, and neglected the case for approximately 14 months before he was terminated in April 2001. In a fourth case, Respondent was retained in September 1999 and was terminated in December 2000. In the fifth case, Respondent was retained in September 2000 and was terminated in August 2001. Respondent’s behavior demonstrated a disregard for his ethical duties by his pattern of neglecting his clients’ cases, failing to keep his clients informed of the status of the cases, and in one case, making misrepresentations in order to hide this neglect. The neglect in these matters was not simply ordinary and inadvertent neglect or the result of an error of judgment made in good faith. Rather, the neglect is these cases involved “indifference and a consistent failure to carry out the obligations which the lawyer has assumed to his clients.” Respondent received an Informal Admonition on April 29, 1999 for his misconduct in the handling of three cases, all of which involved neglect and lack of communication. Respondent also received an Informal Admonition on August 31, 2000 for charging an excessive fee. Although Respondent failed to prove Braun mitigation, he was able to demonstrate remorse, cooperation in the disciplinary proceedings, and concrete steps that he had undertaken to ensure that the misconduct would not recur. Respondent also demonstrated that he had had severe financial hardships and other personal hardships at the time that this neglect occurred.
Rule Violation(s) 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.4(b), 1.5(a), 1.5(b), 1.15(b), 1.16(d), 8.4(c), 8.4(d).
Discipline Imposed Public Censure and one year probation
Points of Law
Report/Opinion not available