Monday, October 27, 2008
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department suspended an attorney on an interim basis in the face of allegations of misappropriation and failure to cooperate in the ongoing bar investigation. The court found that:
The Committee has amply demonstrated that respondent is guilty of misconduct threatening the public interest and should be immediately suspended. At the very least the bank records show that respondent has misused client funds held in escrow and, at worst, that she intentionally converted a down payment placed in escrow. While she initially failed to account for the withdrawals she made from her escrow account, she now disingenuously claims that she withdrew the client funds out of fear the escrow account would be garnished because of judgments against her. Notably, she does not say when or to where the missing funds were allegedly transferred and the bank records tell a different story. It has been two years since the real estate transaction fell through and the purchaser filed suit against the seller and respondent as escrow agent, and there is strong evidence that respondent has converted the escrow funds in dispute. This Court has not hesitated to suspend respondents based upon "uncontested" evidence of misconduct when the respondent's papers fail to meaningfully controvert the evidence of misconduct against them...
As to the non-cooperation:
While respondent gave limited cooperation by providing some answers to complaints and attending two depositions, she otherwise failed to cooperate by repeatedly failing to produce her bank statements, some client files and, even now, despite repeated promises, the 2006 and 2007 tax returns which are particularly relevant to the Committee's investigation (see Matter of Singer, 301 AD2d 336 ; Matter of Goldman, 7 AD3d at 22). Lastly, the purported ledger produced by respondent is wholly inadequate since it is missing relevant information such as the source of deposits, the recipients of disbursements, and purposes for withdrawals, all of which the Committee specifically requested since the information cannot be culled from the subpoenaed bank statements. As respondent's submissions are substantively lacking, immediate suspension is warranted.
Interim suspension is an invaluable tool in preventing future misconduct, particularly in light of the time it may take to impose final discipline. (Mike Frisch)