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January 15, 2013

Bar Overseers reprimand lawyer in landslide case

Scott Gleason says he accepts responsibility; settled with former clients

HAVERHILL — A well-known defense attorney has been disciplined by a lawyer watchdog group for his negligent handling of a case in which former clients’ property was damaged by landslides that originated from nearby construction activity.

In its Dec. 28 decision, the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers issued a “public reprimand” against Scott Gleason for missing several deadlines for filing a lawsuit against the city of Methuen and various construction firms for damages to his clients’ property in 2001. The missed deadlines resulted in the clients losing their right to sue for damages.

Gleason was also cited for attempting to reach a cash settlement with the clients on a possible legal malpractice claim without advising them in writing they should consult with another lawyer.

Gleason, who has practiced law since 1980 and has a law office on Merrimack Street, is known for representing public officials in high-profile corruption cases, including former Haverhill Highway Department Superintendent James Flaherty and former Lawrence School Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy.

Gleason “was primarily responsible to the clients, but he assigned the case to an associate at his firm to handle the initial investigation and prepare a draft complaint,” the board’s reprimand order said. “The firm did not have in place measures sufficient to assure proper oversight and that deadlines were met, and (Gleason) did not personally assure that the associate’s conduct conformed to the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

The decision said Gleason mailed a notice to Methuen’s mayor is 2003 demanding the city pay $1,000,000 to his clients for physical and emotional damages to their property. But along the way, Gleason or other lawyers at his Merrimack Street firm failed to file paperwork with the court or take other actions required to keep the complaint alive, the decision said. By the end of 2004, the statute of limitations expired for any claim of damages against the city of Methuen or the contractors involved with the construction of nearby homes that were allegedly responsible for the rain-induced landslide, the decision said.

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