In re Joseph P. Palmisano, Esq.
JURISDICTION Professional Responsibility Board DOCKET NO. PRB
above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:
2. On June 22, 2017, this Court directed respondent and
Disciplinary Counsel to inform the Court within thirty days
of any claim that the imposition of identical discipline in
Vermont would be unwarranted. See A.O. 9, Rule 20(B), (D).
Respondent filed notice that he did not oppose the imposition
of identical discipline. Disciplinary Counsel argued for a
harsher sanction. She asserted that a two-year-and-six-month
suspension was appropriate under Vermont law given the
severity of misconduct set forth in the Arizona decision and
the difficulty in supervising probation while respondent was
in Arizona. Disciplinary Counsel further requested that
respondent not be allowed to seek reinstatement in Vermont
under A.O. 9, Rule 22(D) until he was reinstated in Arizona.
Respondent submitted an additional reply, opposing
Disciplinary Counsel's request. While he agreed that he
would not seek reinstatement in Vermont until Arizona had
granted him authority to practice law, he maintained that a
six-month suspension followed by two years of probation was
an adequate and appropriate sanction. On July 25, 2017, the
Court placed respondent on interim suspension status pending
a ruling on the petition for reciprocal discipline. As set
forth below, we conclude that the appropriate discipline to
be imposed in Vermont is a two-year suspension, effective as
of July 25, 2017, the date that respondent was placed on
interim suspension status.
3. Respondent admitted to the counts against him in Arizona,
and we conclude that the misconduct described in the Arizona
decision has been conclusively established. See A.O. 9, Rule
20(E) ("Except where grounds exist under [A.O. 9, Rule
20(D)], a final adjudication in another jurisdiction that a
lawyer has been guilty of misconduct shall establish
conclusively the misconduct for purposes of a disciplinary
proceeding in this jurisdiction."). In considering
reciprocal discipline, we are limited to the "face of
the record from which the discipline is predicated, "
A.O. 9, Rule 20(D), and we do not consider any explanations
or evidence not found in the Arizona record. We note that the
Arizona judge rejected the argument, stipulated to by
respondent and Arizona Bar Counsel, that respondent's
disciplinary violations resulted from respondent's
failure to properly manage his office. Respondent stipulated
that there were no mitigating factors. The judge found that
respondent's admissions far more supported the conclusion
that respondent would not, rather than could not, manage his
calendar, duties, or practice.
4. With this in mind, we turn to the facts as summarized by
the judge in the Arizona decision. Respondent is the owner
and managing attorney of the Acacia Law Group (ALG) primarily
located in Mesa, Arizona with an office also maintained in
Tucson, Arizona. Respondent engaged in a practice of taking
out-of-county clients and "contracting" with other
attorneys to perform the actual legal services. The State Bar
of Arizona filed a complaint against respondent in 2016, as
amended in 2017, alleging that he violated the Arizona Rules
of Professional Conduct in various ways.
5. Under count one, respondent had a client who lived in New
York. The client hired respondent's law firm to modify
his probation in Arizona. Respondent failed to respond to
repeated phone calls from the client for ten months and filed
nothing with the court. Respondent did not provide a written
accounting as requested by the client. When the client
demanded a refund, respondent demanded additional money to
file a petition to modify the client's probation. One
month later, respondent filed a notice of appearance without
requiring the additional money. The probation officer filed a
petition waiving the deferred jail time, which was granted by
6. Under count two, respondent represented multiple clients
in municipal court cases. He did not personally appear in any
of the cases. He missed multiple hearings and was ordered to
personally appear in one of the cases but failed to do so.
7. Under count three, a client contacted respondent regarding
a traffic case. The client indicated that he wanted to obtain
video footage of the intersection at issue but neither
respondent nor his law firm (ALG) tried to obtain the video.
Respondent sent an ALG notice-of-appearance form to a Tucson
lawyer to file with the court. Respondent informed this
lawyer that he was unsure of what type of legal coverage
would be needed. Shortly before the trial date, respondent
asked the Tucson attorney for the first time to handle the
hearing. When the Tucson attorney contacted the client that
same day, it was the first time the client was told that the
Tucson attorney was covering the traffic hearing. Respondent
handled the appeal without charge and lost the appeal.
8. Under count four, respondent was scheduled to appear in
two superior court cases at the same time. He did not file
any motions to continue either matter. The day before the
hearings, respondent's secretary called the court, asking
if it had received a motion to continue. The court had not
and respondent's secretary emailed two motions, neither
of which was filed with the court clerk. The motions had the
wrong court and wrong case number on them. Respondent stated
that he was in trial in a third case on the date in question.
It was later discovered that this statement was not true. He
was not in trial on the date in question; he had been ordered
to appear in that case to set a trial schedule.
9. Under count five, the grandparents of a client paid
respondent $10, 000 to represent their granddaughter. In a
separate case, they paid respondent $600 to represent their
daughter in Indiana regarding an Arizona extradition hold for
a relative. However, Arizona released the extradition shortly
thereafter eliminating the purpose of the representation.
Respondent refused to refund any of the prepaid fee on the
daughter's case as he had applied the entirety of that
money to the granddaughter's case. The grandparents
repeatedly requested the refund from respondent who finally
set a time to personally meet with them. Respondent did not
appear at the meeting. The meeting was then set for the
following day. The discussion became profane and respondent
chest-bumped the grandfather before forcing both grandparents
out of his office.
10. Under count six, respondent was hired by Paul Walsh, who
was indicted for stabbing his brother John Walsh. Under a
plea agreement, Paul Walsh was placed on probation.
Respondent did not move to withdraw from the case.
Thereafter, John Walsh was indicted for shooting Paul Walsh
and then himself. Respondent represented John Walsh. After
the court removed him for a nonwaivable conflict, respondent
argued that he had obtained no "attorney-client"
information from Paul and that the parents had waived any
conflict. There was evidence, however, that respondent told
police detectives that Paul Walsh had been using drugs.
11. Under count seven, respondent's client was charged in
a criminal case. A court found in June 2013 that respondent
had not complied with his disclosure obligations. By October
2013, respondent still had not produced a disclosure as
ordered by the court. He was twice again ordered to produce
the disclosure and failed to do so. He was sanctioned $250.
Respondent subsequently told the court that he had paid the
sanction, which was not true. The court set a hearing for
contempt. Respondent still failed to pay the sanction and
blamed his assistant. He was sanctioned an additional $250.
He then paid the sanction.
12. Respondent admitted the counts against him and admitted
to numerous and repeated violations of the Arizona Rules of
Professional Conduct based on the conduct set forth above,
including: failing to comply with the requests of his client
regarding representation; failing to act with reasonable
diligence and promptness in representing clients; failing to
communicate with clients; failing to assure all lawyers in
the firm conformed to the Rules of Professional Conduct;
engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of
justice; failing to expedite litigation; accepting prepaid
legal fees related to his anticipated representation of one
client, but applying the fees to the outstanding bill of
another client; failing to promptly return unearned fees and
property; engaging in unprofessional conduct; revealing
client information related to the representation without
client consent; failing in duties to prior client by
representing another in the same or similar matter in which
the former and present clients' interests were materially
adverse without former client's consent; using
information relating to the representation of a former client
to the disadvantage of the former client; disobeying an
obligation under the rules of a tribunal; failing to make
reasonably diligent efforts to comply with a legally proper
discovery request by an opposing party; ...