Thursday, April 2, 2009

Suspension En Masse

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department entered an order today suspended a batch of lawyers for non-compliance with registration requirements:

Section 468-a of the Judiciary Law requires every resident and nonresident attorney admitted to practice in the State of New York to file a biennial registration statement with the administrative office of the courts. A biennial registration fee must be paid at the time the statement is filed. This registration statement, which is mailed every two years by the Office of Court Administration to every attorney so admitted, must be timely filed and the fee paid regardless of whether the attorney is actually engaged in the practice of law in New York or elsewhere. Attorneys who certify to the Chief Administrator of the Courts that they have retired from the practice of law are exempt from paying the registration fee at the time the statement is filed. Subdivision (5) of the statute provides further that “[n]oncompliance by an attorney with the provisions of this section and the rules promulgated hereunder shall constitute conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and shall be referred to the appropriate appellate division of the supreme court for disciplinary action.”

Pursuant to this provision, petitioner Departmental Disciplinary Committee seeks an order suspending from the practice of law certain attorneys (whose last name begins with the letters A through K) who are in violation of the statute, in that they have failed to file the registration statement and pay the registration fee for one or more registration periods after due purported notification. This is another in a series of motions to suspend attorneys who have failed to file biennial registration statements with the Office of Court Administration. This Court has previously held that failure to register or re-register, and pay the biennial registration fee constitutes professional misconduct warranting discipline (see Matter of Pierini, 21 AD3d 42 [2005]). Since 1997 this Court granted similar motions and suspended attorneys en masse for such failure to register or re-register, and pay the registration fee pursuant to Judiciary Law § 468-a (see Matter of Attorneys in Violation of Judiciary Law § 468-a, 230 AD2d 366 [1997]; 240 AD2d 106 [1998]; 247 AD2d 158 [1998]; 257 AD2d 127 [1999]; 36 AD3d 34 [2006]; 51 AD3d 1 [2008]).

The attorneys in question have been duly notified of their noncompliance and given an opportunity to cure their default. The Office of Court Administration mailed each of the defaulting attorneys a biennial registration form to their last known home address, a second notice to their last known business address, and a final notice to their home address. Attorneys who remained in default following these three notices were referred to the Disciplinary Committee. On October 31, 2008, this Court published notice in the New York Law Journal that the Disciplinary Committee would institute an omnibus disciplinary proceeding seeking immediate suspension from the practice of law against those attorneys who did not cure their default by November 24, 2008. A list of approximately 952 attorneys who failed to submit satisfactory proof of registration and payment of fees was forwarded to the Committee. The Committee then filed its motion for service by publication of the notice of petition to suspend.

(Mike Frisch)


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Comments

Here is a question -- strictly, uh, hypothetical.

Should attorneys be suspended, these not jolly days, for inability, due to financial hardship (NOT result of malpractice damages), to pay registration fee, thereby denied chance to serve community (pro bono) and,also, possibility of a earning a living?

Posted by: David R. Zukerman | Jul 23, 2009 6:09:24 PM

Seems like a lot of work just to collect a debt. Is it really appropriate to discipline for none-payment? What if no actual notice was received? Can one be in violation on constructive notice?

Personally, I object to having to pay this fee even though I am under suspension in New York and prohibited from practicing while an attorney who has retired need not pay the fee. Why should I be required to pay when I am not able to practice?

I much prefer the D.C. Bar's handling of this which considers suspension for non-payment to be different to suspension for disciplinary reasons and doesn't attempt to collect this fee when you are precluded from practicing for disciplinary reasons.

Stephen

Posted by: FixedWing | Jul 24, 2009 9:58:53 AM

I have not practiced law in New York since I was admitted in 1972.
I therefore object to paying a registration fee for essentially the right to practice in Florida. I pay dues to the Florida Bar.
The New York Bar is essentially charging me dues to practice in Florida and I refuse to pay what I consider is an unjust levy.

Posted by: David Wieder | Jul 21, 2012 4:48:24 PM

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