On Friday, November 10, 2023, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld the disbarment of James Hayes, an attorney accused of assisting his client in an elaborate scheme to fraudulently conceal lottery winnings in violation of multiple court orders.
The case is titled ‘In the Matter of James Hayes’ with case no. SJC-13388.
The cited violations pertain to 1.2(a)(d), 3.4(a)(c), 8.4(a)(c), and (d) of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
According to the filing, Attorney Hayes began representing a client in September 2013 after the client won the Massachusetts lottery and received a lump sum payment. Shortly after, the client’s ex-girlfriend filed for an increase in child support in Probate Court. That October, the Probate Court issued temporary orders prohibiting the client from spending or transferring his lottery funds, which were placed in receivership.
It was then that Attorney Hayes is said to have devised a scheme, advising his client to falsely claim half the winnings already belonged to the client’s brother through a prior verbal agreement. Over the next year, Hayes is accused of helping his client dodge Probate Court orders through fraudulent means such as setting up secret trust accounts, making false statements in court, and filing a frivolous bankruptcy petition solely to delay the case.
In June 2020, Bar Counsel filed a disciplinary petition against Attorney Hayes with four counts of professional misconduct, including intentionally assisting in fraud, obstructing access to evidence, knowingly disobeying court orders, and charging excessive legal fees without proper documentation or notice to the client. Additionally, Attorney Hayes further violated rules through dishonest conduct, causing the client to withdraw a bar complaint in exchange for a small refund.
After a five-day hearing, a committee found Attorney Hayes guilty on all charges. They determined he lacked credibility and took advantage of his client’s vulnerabilities. The Board of Bar Overseers then recommended disbarment.
Hayes appealed the sanction to the Supreme Judicial Court. However, in their November 10th decision, the Court upheld the disbarment, finding “substantial evidence” that Attorney Hayes’ actions were “imbued with fraud and greed” and that he intentionally misled multiple courts over several years in his scheme.
The court emphasized the egregious nature and aggravating factors of Attorney Hayes’ misconduct, which warranted a stronger sanction than mere suspension. These included exploiting a vulnerable client, showing no remorse, and failing to take responsibility.
As a result, the Court ordered Attorney Hayes to be permanently disbarred from practicing law in Massachusetts, stripping him of his law license and ability to represent clients going forward.
The disposition reads:
“The respondent-attorney, James Hayes, appeals from an order of a single justice of this court disbarring him from the practice of law. We affirm.”
According to Avvo, Attorney James Hayes was a tax attorney based in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended the Boston College Law School, graduating in 1971. He acquired his license in Massachusetts in the same year.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.