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In re McNelis

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

November 22, 2016

In the Matter of Robert F. McNelis.

          For Petitioner: David D. Curtin, Esq. Disciplinary Counsel

          For Respondent: Robert F. McNelis, Pro Se

          Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          ORDER

         This attorney disciplinary matter came before the Court at its conference on October 19, 2016, pursuant to a decision and recommendation of the Supreme Court Disciplinary Board (board) that the respondent, Robert F. McNelis, receive a public censure. Article III, Rule 6(d) of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure 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 this Court to show cause, if any, why we should not impose the sanction recommended by the board. The respondent appeared before the Court, pro se. Having heard the representations of the respondent and this Court's Disciplinary Counsel and having reviewed the record, we determine that the respondent has failed to show cause why he should not be publicly censured.

         The relevant facts as determined by the board at a hearing on April 19, 2016, arise from the respondent's association with Hassan Majid Hussein, a non-attorney who offered to provide assistance to members of the public who, as a result of financial need, were seeking to modify existing mortgage loans to reduce their debt burdens. Mr. Hussein, who had previously served a sentence in federal prison for criminal charges involving mortgage fraud, was under investigation by the Department of Attorney General based upon consumer complaints relating to his activities. In April 2013, the respondent represented Hussein at a meeting at the Attorney General's office at which Hussein was advised that he could only continue to offer loan modification services if he worked under the direct supervision of a duly licensed attorney. The respondent and Hussein agreed that the respondent would act as that supervising attorney.

         By assuming that role, the respondent subjected himself to the requirements set forth in Article V, Rule 5.3 of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct. That rule, entitled "Responsibilities regarding nonlawyer assistants" provides as follows:

"Rule 5.3. Responsibilities regarding nonlawyer assistants. With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:
"(a) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer;
"(b) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and
"(c) a lawyer shall be responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if:
"(1) the lawyer orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or
"(2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided ...

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