On Tuesday, December 19, 2023, the Rhode Island Supreme Court disbarred attorney James F. McAleer and ordered him to comply with disciplinary rules after he mishandled funds from three estates.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of James F. McAleer,” with case no. 2023-31-M.P.
The charges cited Rhode Island Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 1.15, 1.19, 5.3, 8.1 and 8.4.
According to a 15-page order from the court, McAleer was appointed executor for the estates of Valerie Webb, Hertha Champlin, and Chauncey Champlain. Beneficiary Clifford Webb later filed a complaint alleging McAleer failed to account for over $557,000 from the estates, which were collectively worth $1 million.
An investigation by the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Counsel found that between 2014 and 2019, McAleer wrote himself 28 checks totaling $243,115.50 from the Champlin estate. He provided no records showing what the funds were used for. Additionally, $120,901.99 remains unaccounted for from the estates.
At a July 2023 hearing of the Disciplinary Board, McAleer failed to submit any documentation to justify the missing money. He claimed physical limitations prevented him from accessing files, but the court noted he impeded the disciplinary investigation by moving files to multiple locations.
In its order, the court agreed with the Disciplinary Board that McAleer violated several rules related to competence, diligence, fees, record-keeping, and his responsibilities in overseeing staff. The court said that disbarment is the presumptive sanction for intentional misappropriation of funds. McAleer must now comply with rules requiring him to notify clients and other jurisdictions where he is licensed of his disbarment. He has 10 days to file an affidavit with the court affirming he has complied and provided a forwarding address.
The Disposition states:
“It should further be noted that at the show cause hearing, the respondent failed to answer the Court’s questions about where the money is and failed to provide any mitigating circumstances or evidence to support his position that he has not been able to adequately defend himself, a claim which this Court finds self-serving and wholly unsubstantiated. Thus, we hereby disbar respondent James F. McAleer for his conduct.”
According to avvo.com, Mr. McAleer was an attorney in Riverside, Rhode Island. He acquired his law license in Rhode Island in 1968.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.