For Petitioner: David D. Curtin, Esq., Disciplinary Counsel.
For Respondent: James F. Hyman, Esq.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ. Goldberg, J., dissenting.
This disciplinary matter comes before the Supreme Court pursuant to Article III, Rule 6(d) of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure. On May 15, 2014, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court forwarded to us a decision finding that the respondent, Tracey Napolitano, had violated the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct, along with its recommendation that we impose a public censure as a sanction. Rule 6(d) provides in pertinent part:
" If the [Disciplinary] Board determines that a proceeding should be dismissed, or that it should be concluded by public censure, suspension or disbarment, it shall submit its findings and recommendations, together with the entire record, to this Court. This Court shall review the record and enter an appropriate order."
We directed the respondent to appear before the Court at its conference on June 4, 2014, to show cause, if any, why we should not accept the recommendation of the board. Having heard the representations of the respondent, her attorney, and this Court's Disciplinary Counsel, we determine that cause has not been shown.
The relevant facts, as determined by the board at a hearing on April 1, 2014, are as follows. The respondent was admitted to the practice of law in this state on November 25, 1997. On July 27, 2012, she was removed from the Master Roll of Attorneys after she failed to file with the Clerk of this Court the annual registration form and pay the annual registration fee required under Article IV, Rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules. As the result of
being removed from the Master Roll of Attorneys, the respondent was not authorized to practice law in this state and was not authorized to practice at all times relevant to this matter.
In March 2013, the respondent was contacted by a business owner, Raza Liqat, seeking legal advice and assistance relating to a convenience market he owned in Newport. The respondent assisted him in forming a business entity, Broadway Convenience Market, LLC, and registering that business entity with the Corporations Division of the Rhode Island Secretary of State on June 4, 2013. The Articles of Organization of Broadway Convenience Market, LLC, filed with the Secretary of State, specifically identify " Tracey A. Napolitano, Esquire" as the resident agent for the LLC.
Additionally, in April 2013 Liqat was notified by the State of Rhode Island, Division of Taxation that his license to operate his convenience market was subject to suspension for failure to pay taxes and that he was subject to the imposition of the taxes and civil penalties. Liqat requested, and the respondent agreed to provide, legal services, including the representation of Liqat at an administrative hearing before the Division of Taxation. On May 6, 2013, she sent a letter of representation on behalf of Liqat to the Division of Taxation identifying herself as " Tracey A. Napolitano, Esquire," indicating that she was representing his interests, and on May 22, 2013 she submitted a power of attorney form to the division wherein she asserted that she was a member in good standing of the Rhode Island Bar. However, the respondent did not appear on Liqat's behalf before the Division of Taxation, and he retained other counsel.
The board also found that the respondent did not provide Liqat with any written communication confirming the scope of her legal representation or setting forth the fees, if any, that she would be charging him for her services. However, the board did not make a finding that Liqat had actually paid a fee for the respondent's services, and an allegation that he had paid a fee was withdrawn prior to the hearing.
Based upon these findings, the board concluded that the respondent violated Article V, Rules 1.5(b) and 8.4(c) of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct. We agree. Rule 1.5, ...