March 17, 2005 - The state Supreme Court yesterday publicly censured lawyer Eileen G. Cooney for failing to file a document in an immigration case, failing to prepare a document in a divorce case, lying to a client, and ignoring the state disciplinary board.
The court also noted that this is not the first time Cooney has been disciplined. "That previous discipline consisted of a private censure imposed by this court in 1995 and a private letter of admonition issued by the board in 2002," the court wrote. "Notably, in each of those matters, [Cooney] had neglected a client's case."
The opinion presented the following as facts of the case: In July 2001, Cooney was hired by the family of Belmira Ferreira to help her obtain "permanent resident alien status." In September 2001, Cooney received a check from the family for the filing fee with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and she prepared the appropriate application. But INS never received the application.
Between September 2001 and January 2003, the family made many attempts to contact Cooney about the status of the application. In January 2003, Cooney learned that INS had not received the application, so she prepared a second one. But Cooney failed to file the second application and never informed her client. In January 2004, the family filed a complaint with the disciplinary board, which sent Cooney two notices seeking a response. When Cooney failed to respond, the Supreme Court reprimanded her, directing her to file a response or face suspension. In April 2004, the court suspended her from the practice of law. Cooney filed a "belated answer" in May 2004, and later that month, the court reinstated her law license under the condition that her law practice be monitored and that she continue receiving medical treatment.
In the second matter, Cooney was hired to represent Diana Enos in a divorce case. Under a divorce decree, Enos' husband was to assign her half the value of his federal retirement benefits. But Cooney failed to prepare the necessary order to make that assignment, according to the court. After making many attempts to get information from Cooney, Enos asked Sen. Jack Reed's office for help in obtaining those benefits. The court said Cooney "falsely advised Enos that she was working in cooperation with Senator Reed's office to secure those benefits" when "in fact, [Cooney] had made no contact with Senator Reed's office." The disciplinary board concluded that Cooney had violated professional conduct rules that require lawyers to act with diligence, keep clients informed, be honest and respond to disciplinary authorities.