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Lawyer Suspended for Lying to Client About Settlement

[caption id="attachment_15264" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Photo Credit: Shutterstock[/caption] A Philadelphia lawyer already facing legal malpractice claims has been suspended from the practice of law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has suspended Jamie Ray-Leonetti on consent for one year, according to an order posted publicly Tuesday. The Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel and Ray-Leonetti had filed a joint petition in support of discipline on consent in February. Ray-Leonetti is also facing legal malpractice claims brought by Josephine and James Cleary over how she handled their medical malpractice lawsuit against the Jefferson Health System and Doylestown Women's Health Center. Also named as defendants in the legal malpractice case are the Pennsylvania Client Assistance Program, the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania and now-dissolved law firm Williams Cuker Berezofsky, all of which were places Ray-Leonetti worked while representing the Clearys, according to their complaint. An investigation into Ray-Leonetti's alleged misconduct is still pending, the joint petition said. The disciplinary investigation is also connected to Ray-Leonetti's representation of the Clearys. According to the disciplinary petition, Ray-Leonetti filed a lawsuit on the Clearys' behalf in February 2014, alleging that a doctor failed to remove a foreign item from Josephine Cleary's body during a hysterectomy in 2012. The case was scheduled for an arbitration hearing, but the arbitration was postponed several times, and the court docket showed that while Ray-Leonetti initiated a lawsuit by filing a writ of summons, she never filed the full complaint, the petition said. In March 2015, Ray-Leonetti had falsely told the Clearys that their arbitration was postponed because of bad weather, the Clearys' legal malpractice complaint said. Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Idee Fox entered a non pros judgment against the Clearys for failing to appear and for failing to file a complaint. According to the disciplinary petition, Ray-Leonetti told the Clearys there was no need for an arbitration hearing because the case had settled, and promised the Clearys would receive $50,000 from the settlement. A year later, the Clearys still had not received that money, and sought to meet with Ray-Leonetti about the delay. Ray-Leonetti admitted that there was no settlement but said she could continue to negotiate, the petition said. She did not inform the Clearys that the case had been dismissed. The disciplinary petition noted as a mitigating factor that Ray-Leonetti has been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and that she has been cooperative and remorseful throughout the investigation. But the petition also noted Ray-Leonetti's existing disciplinary record, which includes previous probation for failing to diligently pursue a case and failing to give the client accurate information about that case. In their civil complaint against Ray-Leonetti, the Clearys said she caused them financial losses, including credit card debt incurred because Ray-Leonetti encouraged the family to go on vacation, saying they could pay for it with the forthcoming settlement funds. The Clearys also suffered emotional distress and physical manifestations of their stress, the complaint said. Lawyer Barbara Rosenberg, who is representing Ray-Leonetti in the disciplinary case, did not respond to a call seeking comment Tuesday. Neither did Mark Raith of Holsten & Associates, who is defending Ray-Leonetti in the Clearys' civil case. Mark Tanner and Peter Newman of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig, who are representing the Clearys, declined to comment on the disciplinary order.

Attorney Discipline