Disciplinary Counsel v. Starkey
An attorney who allegedly disobeys repeated court orders, and refuses to pay in full a court judgment, engages in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Disciplinary counsel presented evidence that in District Court litigation in Massachusetts the respondent, Attorney Noah Starkey, allegedly refused to respond to the Massachusetts court's repeated orders to comply with discovery requests. Disciplinary counsel also alleged that Starkey did not file a response to a motion for default judgment and pay $350 in attorneys' fees. The Connecticut Superior Court found that disciplinary counsel proved that Attorney Starkey allegedly engaged in dilatory tactics and failed to follow court orders, in violation of Rule 8.4(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. "By repeatedly acting in defiance of the court," wrote the Superior Court, "the respondent attorney has set the poorest possible example to other attorneys of how they should behave, particularly in hotly contested cases." Disciplinary counsel also proved that the respondent attorney and his spouse failed to pay a court judgment in the amount of $285,000 to the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case, also in violation of Rule 8.4(4). "Although he has exhausted all his defenses," wrote the Superior Court, "the respondent still refuses to heed the judgment of the court." Disciplinary counsel also proved that Starkey failed to answer the Connecticut grievance complaint or to appear at the grievance committee hearing, in violation of Rule 8.1(2). Disciplinary counsel did not prove, by clear and convincing evidence, its claim that the respondent attorney was involved in the alleged forging of a power of attorney, in violation of Rule 8.4(3). Previously, the respondent has been reprimanded for allegedly failing to act with reasonable diligence. "[F]or a lawyer to take the low road," added the court, "is not a formula for success." The Connecticut court suspended the respondent attorney from the practice of law for 18 months and ordered that he pay the $285,000 court judgment and pass the multistate professional responsibility exam, prior to applying for reinstatement to the bar.