BY STACI WILSON
A Montrose attorney received an 18-month suspension from the Pennsylvania Bar by the state Supreme Court for violating rules of professional conduct for actions taken regarding a quarry lease dispute.
The Supreme Court issued the order against attorney Paul Kelly on Oct. 28. He was also ordered to pay costs to the Disciplinary Board.
The court’s Disciplinary Board had recommended, in July, Kelly be suspended for three years.
Justice Seamus McCaffery, offered a dissent to the Supreme Court’s 18-month suspension, concurring with the Disciplinary Board’s recommendation of a three-year suspension.
Suspensions take effect 30 days after the court order is issued. According to the Disciplinary Board’s website, if a suspension of over one year is ordered by the Supreme Court, the attorney must petition for reinstatement to the Bar.
According to the Disciplinary Board’s findings, Kelly entered into a lease with Joseph and Cynthia Oruska in 2003 that allowed him to quarry stone from their Dimock Twp. property for a fee. However, within the first year of the lease agreement, problems with the agreement arose between Kelly and the Oruskas.
The quarry was divided by the property line that separated the Oruska property from that owned, at the time, by Guy Vandermark.
Kelly represented Vandermark in suits filed against the Oruskas. Vandermark died while the case was in litigation.
Kelly filed two complaints, each, according to the Board, were amended several times and dismissed before going to trial.
In one counterclaim against the Oruskas that did go to trial, Judge Brendan Vanston rebuked Kelly for “…presenting evidence so weak and spurious as would make one question whether it was pulled from thin air.”
Kelly lost at the trial level; appealed the decision and lost.
Kelly then filed another complaint on behalf of himself and others alleging multiple causes of action, according to the Board.
He also made several attempts to settle the dispute through intermediaries without going through the Oruskas’ attorney. None of the offers made, according to the Disciplinary Board, contained provisions that would benefit Vandermark, the lawsuit’s plaintiff.
The Board also found that when litigation failed, Kelly filed several baseless complaints and objections to the Oruskas’ mining permits with the Department of Environmental Protection.
In the discussion of the case filed by the Disciplinary Board, the Board said, “(Kelly’s) conduct in his dealings with the Oruskas is the antithesis of the manner in which a professional and responsible attorney must approach the practice of law.”