This week, the Rhode Island Supreme Court, in the case of In the Matter of Steven J. Coaty, publicly censured former Republican State Representative and lawyer Steven J. Coaty for committing a host of ethical violations while representing four clients who filed disciplinary complaints against him. The Court ordered attorney Turner Scott to to monitor Coaty’s practice of law.
Here is the relevant portion of the Court’s order:
The respondent has committed a host of violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of these four clients. He has exhibited a disturbing pattern of neglecting matters entrusted to his care, failing to maintain adequate communication with his clients, and failing to properly respond to disciplinary complaints. While the board did not find any intentional misappropriation of client funds, respondent’s billing practices and handling of client funds can, at best, be described charitably as sloppy and well below the standard of care expected of a fiduciary.
Accordingly, we enter the following order. The respondent, Steven J. Coaty is hereby publicly censured. Turner Scott, Esquire, a member of the bar of this state is hereby appointed to monitor the respondent’s practice of law. The respondent shall fully cooperate with Attorney Scott, and shall meet with him and review his cases at least once per month. The purpose of this monitoring is to ensure the following: (a) That the respondent shall properly adhere to all deadlines; (b) that the respondent shall provide diligent representation to his clients; (c) that the respondent shall maintain adequate communication with his clients; (d) that the respondent shall provide timely and accurate billings to his clients; and, (e) that the respondent’s use of his clients’ account conforms with the mandates of Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney Scott shall submit monthly reports to disciplinary counsel regarding the results of his monitoring of the respondent’s practice. The respondent is ordered to participate in the Rhode Island Bar Association’s Fee Arbitration Program, provided that Bini, Towle, and Addison also agree to participate to resolve the issue of excessive fees. We direct disciplinary counsel to report to us about the respondent’s cooperation with and participation in the fee arbitration program.
Coaty was the toast of the RI Republican community when he upset Democratic candidate Bud Cicilline in the Newport special election in House District 75 to replace the late Rep. Paul Crowley. Less than 12 months later, Coaty fell to Democratic newcomer Peter Martin by a final tally of 55% to 45%.
The Providence Journal also reported this story here.