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Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Quigley

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

June 20, 2017

OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL, Petitioner
v.
PETER JAMES QUIGLEY, Respondent No. 30 DB 2015

          ARGUED: December 6, 2016

         Attorney Registration No. 37440 (Monroe)

          SAYLOR, C.J., BAER, TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, MUNDY, JJ.

          OPINION

          MUNDY, JUSTICE

         Respondent, Peter James Quigley, has filed exceptions to the Report and Recommendation by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (the Board) recommending his disbarment. For the reasons that follow, we adopt the recommendation of the Board and order Respondent's disbarment.

         On February 20, 2015, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) filed a petition for discipline alleging Quigley violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by mishandling the funds of five clients. On July 9, 2015, a three-member Hearing Committee held a disciplinary hearing, prior to which the parties jointly stipulated to the following facts regarding the five matters.

         Harold Woodling, a friend of Quigley for whom he had done legal work in the past, retained Quigley to handle the administration of his wife's estate and a wrongful death claim following her death in July 2012. Woodling and Quigley agreed that Quigley's fee would be one-third of any gross recovery from the insurance claims. Quigley settled five insurance claims totaling $557, 705.00 and was therefore entitled to a fee of $185, 901.66. The settlement funds were deposited in Quigley's IOLTA account.[1] He made two payments to Woodling in 2012 totaling $133, 500.00. Quigley withdrew funds in arbitrary amounts from August 2012 to July 2013. On January 2, 2013, Quigley obtained a cashier's check for $165, 000.00 drawn from his IOLTA account in order to satisfy a lien by Attorney Mark Primrose, with whom Quigley shared ownership of an office building. After the withdrawal of $165, 000.00, the IOLTA account held a balance of $148, 998.01 despite the fact that Quigley had not yet disbursed the remaining $238, 303.34 owed to Woodling. In April 2013, Quigley made payment to Woodling in the amount of $117, 000.00. Following the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, Quigley paid the remaining settlement funds owed to Woodling. Quigley stipulated that his conduct in this matter violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.3, which provides, "a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, " and Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(e) which requires that a lawyer promptly deliver to the client or third party any funds which the client or third party is entitled to receive.

         Debra Tirado retained Quigley to represent her in a personal injury claim following a slip-and-fall accident in January 2011. Tirado and Quigley agreed Quigley would receive one-third of any gross recovery. The trial court directed that the proceeds from the settlement should be distributed as follows: attorney's fees to Quigley in the amount of $28, 750.00; $2, 560.29 for case expenses; $7, 107.00 to medical providers; $8, 678.79 to satisfy a lien from the Department of Public Welfare (the Department); and $69, 892.92 to Tirado. The Department agreed to accept a reduced sum of $6, 509.09 to satisfy its lien. However, at the close of the business day on February 28, 2014, Quigley had not paid the Department, and his IOLTA account had a balance of $13.30. After notification of disciplinary proceedings against him, Quigley paid the Department $6, 509.09, satisfying the payment owed. The parties stipulated Quigley's conduct violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 1.15(e).

         Hilda Dozier retained Quigley to represent her in her personal injury claim following her August 2013 car accident. After Quigley settled the case and disbursed some of the settlement funds, he informed Dozier he would hold $10, 000.00 in trust for possible medical liens that might arise. Independence Blue Cross determined that no money was owed in relation to any insurance lien. Quigley failed to disburse the $10, 000.00 promptly, and his IOLTA account reflected a balance of $262.96 as of January 17, 2014. After disciplinary proceedings were initiated against Quigley, he wrote to Dozier and enclosed a cashier's check for the $10, 000.00 owed to her. The parties stipulated that Quigley's conduct in this matter violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, and 1.15(e). In addition, the parties stipulated that Quigley violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(b), which provides, "[a] lawyer shall hold all Rule 1.15 Funds and property separate from the lawyer's own property. Such property shall be identified and appropriately safeguarded." The parties further stipulated to a violation of Rule 8.4(c), which states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to "engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

         Quigley was retained by Heather Wallace to represent her in a personal injury claim and ultimately settled the claim for $10, 000.00 in 2013. He deposited the settlement funds into his IOLTA account. The settlement was to be disbursed as follows: $3, 000.00 to Heather Wallace, $3, 666.67 to Quigley for attorney's fees, and $3, 333.33 to a third-party company for a subrogation claim. Quigley failed to promptly disburse the funds, and his IOLTA account had a balance of $13.73 on February 13, 2014. He disbursed the funds due to Wallace and the third-party company following notification of the disciplinary charges. The parties stipulated that he violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.15(b), and 1.15(e) in the course of his representation in this matter.

         Joanne Larocque retained Quigley to represent her in her personal injury action in August 2013, and they agreed Quigley would receive one-third of the settlement in attorney's fees. The case settled in May 2014 for $10, 000.00, and Quigley received two $5, 000.00 settlement checks. One check was made payable solely to Larocque, and Quigley forwarded her that check. The other check was made payable to both Quigley and Larocque. Quigley deposited the check into his IOLTA account, and withdrew $2, 500.00 of the $3, 333.33 in fees he was owed. Quigley sent a check to Larocque from his IOLTA account for $1, 667.00, the remaining settlement amount to which she was entitled. However, when Larocque attempted to cash the check, there were insufficient funds in the IOLTA account.[2] Specifically, the account had a balance of $403.30. Prior to the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, Quigley provided Larocque with a personal check for $1, 667.00. The parties stipulated that Quigley's behavior constituted a violation of Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(b).

         The ODC called three witnesses at the hearing: an auditor investigator who testified regarding his investigation of Quigley's IOLTA account, [3] Harold Woodling, and Attorney Mark Primrose. Woodling testified that he knew Quigley for forty years and had retained him for legal work "on and off." NT., 7/9/15, at 31. Woodling explained that he retained Quigley to handle the administration of his late wife's estate, Quigley was still handling it at the time of the hearing, and that Woodling did not recall agreeing Quigley could keep or borrow any of the money from his wife's estate. Id. at 31 -33. On cross-examination, Woodling testified that he had lent Quigley $25, 000.00 in 2006 which had not been reimbursed. Id. at 34-36. During redirect examination, Woodling testified that Quigley had specifically asked to borrow the $25, 000.00 sum in 2006, and Quigley did not ask to borrow any of the funds that arose from the settlement of his wife's estate in 2012. Id. at 38-39.

         Primrose testified he and Quigley became law partners in 1988, but they dissolved the practice in the late 1990s over concerns with money. Id. at 41-42. Primrose explained that he and Quigley shared office space in the same building, but Quigley started to fall behind on his share of the expenses in 2010. Id. at 44. In 2011, Primrose purchased Quigley's one-half interest in the office building they shared, and in 2013, Quigley tendered a check to Primrose for $165, 000.00 to be applied toward repurchasing his interest. Id. Primrose indicated that because Quigley was subject to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) lien and had other past unreimbursed expenses owed to Primrose, that "nothing was finalized" regarding the repurchase.[4] Id. Primrose testified on cross-examination that Quigley was a competent attorney and had "a generally good reputation as a good trial attorney" in the community. Id. at 47. Following Primrose's testimony, the ODC rested.

         Quigley testified he began practicing law in 1982, and detailed his career and involvement in community activities over the course of his career. See id. at 52-58, 62. Quigley testified that he employed his own bookkeeper from 1997 until she moved away in April 2013, and during the time she was employed, she managed the IOLTA account for him. Id. at 59-61. He began to experience financial strain in 2008 and 2009 following the market collapse, and sold apartment buildings that he owned in order to afford to maintain his practice. Id. at 60-61. However, in 2010, the IRS began filing liens against him because he failed to account for capital gains when he filed his taxes, and the IRS situation "continued to worsen" over the years. Id. at 61-64. Quigley testified that he began taking money out of his IOLTA account in 2013 in "piecemeal" amounts "based on need" in order to run his practice and to avoid detection from the IRS. Id. at 64, 68-69. He acknowledged his handling of the funds was "improper." Id. at 68.

         Quigley attributed his mishandling of the funds to a combination of personal circumstances in 2013. Specifically, he cited his longtime bookkeeper leaving in the Spring of 2013, the dissolution of a seventeen-year romantic relationship in 2012 or 2013, and a decline in business due to a misprint of his office phone number in a phonebook advertisement which was printed in June 2013. Id. at 71-74. He testified that when the advertisement was corrected in the summer of 2014, his business improved, and he began paying back creditors. Id. at 75. However, with respect to the Woodling matter, Quigley averred that he had informed Woodling of the lien on his office building in 2012, and Woodling agreed to lend him the money. Id. at 82-83. He agreed it was improper to use Woodling's funds; however, he maintained the funds were used with the permission of Woodling. Id. at 84. On cross-examination, he speculated that Woodling, who was 84 years old at the time of the hearing, was unable to recall giving permission because of his "faulty memory." Id. at 88-89.

         John Abbruzzese, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, testified on behalf of Quigley. He testified he has known Quigley since the mid-1980s, and had a professional and personal relationship with him. Id. 102-03. Dr. Abbruzzese met with Quigley for approximately two and one-half hours on July 19, 2015, and prepared a report of his conclusions based on that meeting. Id. 103-04, 110. He opined that if Quigley had been seen by a psychologist in 2013 for the stressors he experienced, i.e., the loss of his bookkeeper, the dissolution of his long-term relationship, and the misprint in his phone book advertisement, he would have been diagnosed with depression and "some post-traumatic stress." Id. at 106-07. When asked by Quigley's counsel what effect those diagnoses would have on the mismanagement of client funds, Dr. Abbruzzese offered the following opinion.

Well, when a person suffers from either or both of those, there's no real ability to concentrate on anything. All you do is fly as best you can maybe on one wing and that's what Mr. Quigley was doing, and he needed both wings to fly. And . . . that I think is why he made whatever errors he allegedly made.

Id. at 107. He further opined that the mismanagement was not intentionally undertaken by Quigley; rather, "he was reacting to situations as they appeared but not as they really were, and that's part of the depression as well as the anxiety that goes with it[.]" Id. at 108. He expressed the belief that Quigley could continue to practice law but would benefit from "occasional therapy" to resolve emotional issues and prevent "another error down the line." Id. at 108-09. Dr. Abbruzzese speculated that the misconduct "probably would not have happened had there been someone ...


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