Monday, December 31, 2007

Reciprocal But Not Identical

An attorney who had been suspended for six months by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was the subject of reciprocal discipline proceedings in New York. A former associate in the lawyer's firm, who had also been the subject of charges of misconduct, testified that the lawyer had engaged in serious misconduct. These allegations were rejected, leading the Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department to impose a public censure in lieu of suspension. In the Ninth Circuit proceeding, it was found that there was:

"no evidence to support the most serious allegations: that Oriakhi and Roman[the accused attorneys] interfered with and obstructed Obayemi [the associate] in prosecuting petitions for review, that they forged briefs or prepared misleading documents in cases belonging to Obayemi, and that they offered inducements, or threatened Obayemi to force his cooperation in taking the blame for the allegations in the order to show cause. The Commissioner did find, however, evidence of negligent misconduct by Oriakhi and Roman caused primarily by their reliance on an inadequate case-management and calendaring system at Roman & Singh. As a result of their failure to supervise Obayemi and neglecting to have an adequate system in place to monitor his cases, Oriakhi and Roman failed to enter timely appearances in the petitions for review to protect their clients' interests and prosecute their petitions diligently. The Commissioner found that their violations of court rules and orders and other misconduct burdened the court by requiring research by court staff and action by a panel of judges, inconvenienced opposing counsel, and had a potentially adverse effect on the legal proceedings, although there was no evidence of actual injury."

The case involved attorney Roman. The court declined to impose the identical discipline of a suspension, noting that Roman was the only attorney in the firm's New York office. (Mike Frisch)

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