In the Matter of Kelly A. Carden.
Petitioner: Stephen F. Del Sesto, Esq.
Respondent: David D. Curtin, Esq. Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia,
attorney disciplinary matter comes before us pursuant to
Article III, Rule 6(d) of the Supreme Court Rules of
Disciplinary Procedure for Attorneys. On June 18, 2018, the
Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court forwarded to us a
decision finding that the respondent, Kelly A. Carden, had
violated the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct. The
Board recommended that we impose a public censure as a
sanction for that misconduct. Rule 6(d) provides, in
"If the 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
directed respondent to appear before the Court at its
conference on September 20, 2018, to show cause, if any, why
we should not accept the recommendation of the Board. The
respondent appeared before the Court, with counsel. Having
heard the representations of respondent, her attorney, and
this Court's Disciplinary Counsel, we concur with the
decision of the Board that respondent violated the Rules of
Professional Conduct, and we adopt the Board's
recommendation that respondent be publicly censured.
relevant facts, which are not disputed by respondent, are as
follows. In May 2016, respondent and Veronica Assalone, also
a member of the Rhode Island bar, engaged in discussions
about practicing law together. The two agreed that,
initially, respondent would begin working for Assalone as an
employee while they contemplated the precise nature of their
nascent business relationship, including a possible
partnership. While employed, respondent would be covered for
potential legal malpractice under Assalone's professional
liability insurance policy.
2016, respondent began working as a salaried employee of
Assalone. Shortly thereafter, Assalone concluded that the
nature of her existing practice would not merge well with
respondent's. Accordingly, Assalone decided that forming
a professional partnership, and providing insurance coverage
to respondent, was not in Assalone's interest.
and respondent agreed that respondent would end the
employment relationship in July 2016. They understood that
respondent would form her own business entity and obtain her
own professional liability insurance as of August 1, 2016.
Nevertheless, they agreed to continue to share office space.
The respondent hired her own staff and began operating her
own firm as Carden Law Group, LLC, as of that agreed date.
Significantly, respondent did not obtain her own professional
liability insurance policy, but instead began to misrepresent
to others that she was insured under Assalone's policy.
respondent hired a nonlawyer assistant to help with preparing
the necessary documents to conduct real estate closings. The
assistant's duties included forwarding appropriate
documentation to lenders funding the real estate transactions
for which respondent would serve as the closing agent,
including documentation evidencing that respondent had
professional liability insurance in effect. At
respondent's direction, her assistant forwarded
information to the lenders that their closings would be
performed by Carden Law Group, LLC, and specified that Carden
was insured under Assalone's insurance policy. These
representations were false.
December 2016, respondent was preparing to conduct a real
estate closing for the lender, Movement Mortgage. A
representative of this lender questioned why the closing
agent was Carden Law Group, LLC, but the requisite insurance
coverage was under Assalone's name. The lender requested
an explanation prior to approving Carden as the closing
agent. The respondent directed her assistant to prepare a
letter, on Assalone's stationary, stating that Carden was
insured under Assalone's professional liability policy.
The assistant prepared the letter at respondent's
direction. Next, respondent used Assalone's signature
stamp to affix Assalone's signature to that letter, and
forwarded it to the lender. Satisfied with this explanation,
the lender funded the loan and respondent conducted the
had neither authorized respondent to represent to third
parties that she was covered under Assalone's policy, nor
authorized respondent to use Assalone's signature stamp
to execute the letter forwarded to Movement Mortgage. When
Assalone became aware of this transaction and demanded an
explanation, respondent falsely told Assalone that the
assistant had prepared the letter and affixed Assalone's
signature thereto without respondent's knowledge or
notified Disciplinary Counsel that respondent had made false
representations regarding her insurance coverage. In her
initial response to Counsel's inquiries, respondent
reasserted that she was completely unaware that her assistant
had forwarded the misleading letter to Movement Mortgage.
However, respondent subsequently admitted that she had
directed her assistant to prepare the letter.
Disciplinary Board brought formal charges against respondent,
alleging that she had violated Article V, Rules 4.1, 8.1(a),
and 8.4(c) of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional
Conduct. Rule 4.1, entitled "Truthfulness in statements
to others," provides, in pertinent part: "In the
course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly
* * * make a false statement of material fact or law to a
third person * * *." Rule 8.1, entitled "Bar
admission and disciplinary matters," provides in
relevant part: "An applicant for admission to the bar,
or a lawyer in connection with * * * a disciplinary matter *
* * shall not knowingly make a false statement of material
fact * * *." Rule 8.4, entitled "Misconduct,"
provides, in ...