October 27, 2008
Scrivener's Error Corrected
An opinion of the South Carolina Supreme Court was reissued when the sanctioned attorney discovered a scrivener's error while preparing a petition for reinstatement. The court had imposed a two year suspension retroactive to an interim suspension based on the attorney's guilty plea to "accomodation distribution of marijuana without renumeration" and possession of ecstacy. She also had given perjured testimony in the trial of another person. All of the acts had taken place prior to admission to the bar. (Mike Frisch)
Threatening To the Public Interest
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)
Who Said It?
The Georgia Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand and a one month suspension in a case where the attorney and his former law partner represented a corporation and a director in state court and in a federal bankruptcy case. The lawyer claimed that the partner made a false statement in the federal matter that was misattributed to him. The Court of Appeals had affirmed a contempt finding in the state action that concluded that the lawyer made the statement at issue. The lawyer "chose to stand behind the falsehoods despite his lack of first-hand knowledge and continued to blame his law partner."
In the bar case, the court accepted that the lawyer's state of mind was negligent. He had paid a fine and "greatly regrets his misconduct." (Mike Frisch)