Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 28582
Attorney Name Howell, Jeffrey J.
DBP Docket No. 155 DB 2008
Supreme Court Docket No. No. 1635 DD No. 3
County Berks
Disciplinary Counsel Ramona Mariani
Counsel for Respondent Dana P. Caroselli
Decision Date 2010-11-04
Effective Date 2010-12-04
Case Digest By Report and Recommendation dated July 23, 2010, the Disciplinary Board recommended that Respondentís license to practice law be suspended for a period of five-years. Respondent had his friend and fellow lawyer with whom he shared office space draft a will for Respondentís elderly client leaving Respondent the bulk of the clientís assets. Respondent supplied all relevant terms of the will to his friend, who never met with the client or discussed the will with her prior to obtaining her signature to the will. Respondentís friend failed to perform any of the functions an independent lawyer would have performed when drafting a will for a new client. Shortly after the will transaction, Respondent assumed near total control of his elderly clientís assets, including jointly titling 90% of her assets, over a half million dollars, in both of their names. Prior to opening the joint account Respondent failed to ensure that: (1) the transaction and its terms were fair and reasonable to his client, and fully disclosed and transmitted in writing in a manner that could be reasonably understood by the client; (2) the client was advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and was given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel; and (3) the client gave her informed consent in a writing signed by her, to the essential terms of the transaction and Respondentís role in the transaction, including whether Respondent represented her in the transaction. By Order dated November 4, 2010, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania adopted the Disciplinary Boardís Recommendation and suspended Respondentís license for five years.
Rule Violation(s) RPC 1.1, 1.8(a), 1.8(c) and 8.4(a).
Discipline Imposed Suspension for five years
Points of Law Lawyers must meet all three requirements of RPC 1.8(a) prior to entering into business transactions or acquiring possessory or pecuniary interests adverse to their clients. It is no defense to claim that the client agreed to the transaction. A lawyer cannot circumvent the requirements of RPC 1.8(c) by having a friend prepare the legal instrument, in this case Respondentís clientís will, making Respondent her primary beneficiary. Where a lawyer is intimately involved in the preparation of his clientís will and actually suggests jointly titling assets, the evidence is sufficient to find he solicited substantial inter vivos and testamentary gifts in violation of RPC 1.8(c). Using the services of a friend and fellow lawyer to act as a scrivener of his clientís will violates RPC 8.4(a).
Report/Opinion Download