SALEM — A Salem attorney has been suspended from practicing law for two months after agreeing not to contest allegations that he wrote himself into the will of a seriously ill Salem man, then also persuaded that man to loan him $15,000, money that was repaid only after a complaint to the state bar.
The sanction against Philip D. Moran, who is also a well-known spokesman on behalf of a Catholic organization that opposes abortion and gay marriage, takes effect next week and means he will have to shut down his Essex Street practice for two months, withdraw from any cases he has pending and refund any retainers paid by clients.
And while the former client, Michael Chandler, doesn't believe two months is long enough, he hopes that the suspension at least "sends a clear message to the legal community."
Chandler, now 60, first hired and paid Moran back in 2003 to prepare a will. He also agreed to give Moran both durable power of attorney and made him his health care proxy.
"I went to him because he specialized in estate planning," said Chandler, who has no children or other surviving close relatives.
Two years later, Chandler hired Moran again to help him obtain a grant for work on his home. As a "show of appreciation," he had Moran add a $15,000 bequest to the will he had drafted two years earlier.
But that, the Board of Bar Overseers found, was a violation of ethical rules that bar attorneys from both preparing and benefiting from a document if they are not related to the client.
Chandler, a lifelong Salem resident, once served as a legislative aide to longtime Salem Rep. Michael Ruane and is also a cousin of the late Judge Sam Zoll.
Despite those connections, Chandler had already been victimized by a lawyer once before.