Monday, September 22, 2008
The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department imposed suspensions of six months in companion matters involving a partner and an associate of a Nassau County law firm. The misconduct involved a series of false affirmations filed in litigation. As described in the order suspending the associate:
In or about 2004, the respondent, in his capacity as an associate at a Nassau County law firm (hereinafter the law firm), filed affirmations in seven actions pending in the District Court, Suffolk County, Third District, before Judge Toni A. Bean, under the caption MZ Dental, P.C. v Progressive Northeastern Ins. Co. The plaintiffs, represented by the law firm, moved for summary judgment in each of those actions, which involved the assignment of first-party no-fault benefits. The defendants cross-moved for summary judgment and to disqualify attorney Edward Shapiro under the witness-advocate rule on the ground that he, a member of the law firm, would have to testify in order to establish a material element of each plaintiff's causes of action. Each motion submitted by the law firm contained an affirmation averring that the plaintiffs' no-fault claims were personally mailed by attorney Edward Shapiro on a particular day. The affirmations were submitted to establish timely mailing of each plaintiff's claim. The respondent's affirmations in opposition to that branch of the defendants' motion which was to disqualify Shapi
As a result of a hearing held on November 19, 2004, dissimilarities were found in the signature of the respondent on various papers filed with the court. The respondent admitted that on at least two occasions, he had instructed someone in the law firm to sign his name to documents which required his attestation.
In an order dated December 23, 2004, Judge Bean found that the actions of Edward Shapiro and the respondent in submitting the fraudulent signatures constituted part of a pattern of deceptive practices. The court ruled that Edward Shapiro's failure to sign the affirmations nullified the plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment and required their denial. The court found the conduct of Edward Shapiro and the respondent to be frivolous, pursuant to 22 NYCRR 130-1.2, in that they demonstrated an intent to deceive the court and their adversaries, and imposed a total sanction in the sum of $35,000.