On December 12, 2022, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers of the Supreme Judicial Court disbarred attorney Paul S. Hughes, Esq., for intentionally misusing settlement money. 

The case is entitled “Bar Counsel v Paul S. Hughes, Esq.,” with Case no. C4-18-255105.

The charges cited Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(b), 8.4(c)(h), 1.15(c), 1.15(d)(1), 1.15(d)(2), 1.15(e)(6), 1.15(f).

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

During the respondent’s representation of homeowners who were victims of fire losses, the respondent intentionally misused settlement money that belonged to the victims. He also failed to maintain compliant trust accounts. 

The filing states:

“Safety Insurance Company (“Safety”) insured the Witlkops’ home. In total, Safety paid a total of $496,879.51 to or on behalf of the insureds, entitling the respondent to a fee of approximately S49,687.85. Of this total, S380,006.75 was paid to the respondent’s IOLTA account and were Trust funds within the meaning of Mass. R. Prol. C. 1.15(a). From August 2016 through December 2017, the respondent withdrew from his IOLTA account funds belonging to the Wittkops in the amount of S180,650, which is SI38,796.37 more than he was entitled to pay himself. Ultimately, he used most of these funds to pay Polis. The respondent claimed to pay himself a legal fee of $7,834.22. When he withdrew this amount, he failed to deliver to his clients a written notice that he was doing so, including a statement of services rendered, the amount and date of the withdrawal, and a statement of the funds remaining, in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. I1.15(d}2).”

The filing continues:

“The Gouins’ insurer, Mass Bay Insurance Company (“Mass Bay'”), paid $376,000, which was deposited into the respondent’s 1OLTA account and were trust funds. In addition, Mass Bay paid off the mortgage in the amount of S249,000, as the Gouin’s planned to sell their damaged home and buy a new one. The total paid by the insurer was $625,000. The respondent’s share was $31,250. He transferred to the Gouins a total of S309,000, leaving a balance of S35,570 in his IOLTA account. Of this total, the respondent withdrew S59,100 for his fees (although he failed to send his clients a written notice of the services rendered, the amount owed, the date of the withdrawal, and the balance of client funds as required by Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(dN2). It is not clear why he did not withdraw the entire fee and left approximately $22,1 50 of his fee in the TOLTA account.”

With strong evidence and analysis, the court ordered the disbarment of the respondent.

The Disposition states:

“In light of our conclusions that the respondent did not prove mitigation and did not prove that he made restitution, we are left with no option other than to recommend disbarment.”

As of today, Mr. Hughes is listed on the website of the law firm Paul S. Hughes Attorney At Law as a practicing attorney. His info can be found on Linkedin. Hughes practices in Auburndale, Massachusettes. 

A copy of the original filing can be found here.