Friday, April 11, 2008

Balancing Sanction Factors

The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department imposed a two-year suspension with permission to seek reinstatement no sooner than six months prior to the completion of the suspension where an attorney had engaged in misconduct that included escow irregularities and abandoning a criminal client. As to sanction:

"In determining an appropriate measure of discipline to impose, the respondent's position has been that while he has made mistakes occasioned by his severe depression, he is not guilty of any venal misconduct and poses no danger to the public. His admitted failures to comply with the Grievance Committee's legitimate demands for information regarding the handling of his escrow account needlessly prolonged the investigation and forced the Grievance Committee to seek court intervention. Moreover, the respondent has never fully accounted for the activity in his escrow account. Although motivated by a desire to assist his downtrodden clients, who lacked the means to even cash their own social security disability checks due to their lack of satisfactory identification cards after relocating from Florida, the respondent violated the disciplinary rules in his efforts to be of assistance.

The respondent testified that his participation in a 12-step program has allowed him to conquer his addictions, and that he has started to get his life back in order.

The Grievance Committee reports that the respondent has no disciplinary history.

Notwithstanding the absence of complaints by aggrieved clients and the mitigation advanced, especially the respondent's efforts at rehabilitation, he is guilty of serious professional misconduct. Despite the respondent's sworn testimony that he rarely used his escrow account other than for certain limited purposes, the bank records reveal a number of disbursements for what appear to be personal expenses. He failed to fully account to the Grievance Committee for discrepancies revealed by its investigation. OCA records reflect that his attorney registration remains delinquent since 2002.

Under the totality of circumstances, the respondent is suspended from the practice of law for an additional two years." (Mike Frisch)

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