[Added 1-2010]The Rhode Island Supreme Court on Tuesday publicly censured Newport lawyer Steven J. Coaty, a former state representative from Newport, saying he had committed a host of ethical violations while representing four clients who filed disciplinary complaints against him. The court appointed another lawyer, Turner Scott, to monitor Coaty's law practice and ordered Coaty, who maintains an office in Middletown, to participate in the Rhode Island Bar Association's Fee Arbitration Program, provided that the clients who complained about his billing practices agree to participate "to resolve the issue of excessive fees."
In its censure order, the court said Coaty "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. Respondent's billing practices and handling of clients funds can, at best, be described charitably as sloppy and well below the standard of care expected of a fiduciary," the court said. The court ordered Coaty to meet with Scott at least once per month to review cases and to do a better job of communicating with and representing clients. It also ordered Coaty to provide "timely and accurate billings to his clients." Scott was ordered to submit monthly reports about his monitoring of Coaty to the court's chief disciplinary counsel, David Curtin. The court asked Curtin to report to the justices about Coaty's cooperation with and participation in the fee arbitration program.