Saturday, February 25, 2017

After 50+ Years Of Practicing Law, Another Aging Attorney Gets Bar Boot For Playing Fast & Loose w/ Hundred$ Of Thousand$ In Client Cash

From a recent story in The Legal Intelligencer (Pennsylvania):
  • Montgomery County solo attorney Raymond J. Quaglia has been disbarred for misusing client money in multiple cases and taking excessive fees for himself.

    In a Jan. 30 order,(1)(2) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Quaglia was disbarred based on recommendations from the state Disciplinary Board. Quaglia was a solo practitioner based in Lafayette Hill.

    "Standing alone, respondent's misconduct in any one of the three matters would warrant at least a lengthy suspension," the board said in a November 2016 opinion signed by David Fitzsimons. "Where an attorney converts and misappropriates entrusted funds, employs misrepresentations to hide his actions and engages in derelictions of his professional responsibilities in three clients' matters, disbarment is warranted."

    The Disciplinary Board said Quaglia misappropriated at least $200,000 from an estate he represented beginning in 2007, the Jennings estate, and took an excessive fee. According to the opinion, he took more than $300,000 in fees, which was 32 percent of the estate's value.

    In a bankruptcy matter for which he was retained in 2012, the board said, Quaglia used more than $11,000 for his own attorney fee when it was supposed to be kept in escrow. When his client hired another lawyer to handle the wind-down of his business, Quaglia refused to provide payment from escrow, as he had already used that money for his own fee, the board found.

    In a 2009 insurance case, the board said, Quaglia failed to provide a written agreement to his client David Hatchigian, and gave no notice to the court that he would have to miss a hearing for medical reasons. He then failed to withdraw from the case when he became physically unable to represent his client.

    In another insurance case involving Hatchigian, Quaglia failed to deposit $30,000 of settlement funds into an escrow account, the opinion said, instead depositing it into his attorney operating account. He then deducted $10,000 for fees and held $3,500 to cover costs, with no consent from the client.

    The board found that on top of his actions affecting clients, Quaglia failed to recognize that he had done wrong, did not show remorse, and failed to make required tax payments. He was also held in contempt of court and filed a false attorney's annual fee form, the opinion said.

    "Respondent committed egregious misconduct in three clients' matters, the most serious violations comprising his misappropriation and misapplication of entrusted funds," the board concluded.

    The Disciplinary Board noted that Quaglia made several motions and objections, arguing that the disciplinary charges were stale or barred. But the board said Quaglia's motions misapplied its rules "in all instances."

    The opinion also acknowledged that Quaglia had an otherwise clean disciplinary record. But, the board said, that was not enough to mitigate his actions.

    Quaglia did not respond to a call seeking comment on his disbarment.
For more, see Montco Solo Attorney Disbarred for Misusing Client Money (may require subscription; if no subscription, TRY HERE, then click the appropriate link for the story).
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(1) For the disciplinary board's recommendation, see Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Quaglia.

(2) According to the disciplinary board, Quaglia was admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania in 1963.

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