Thursday, October 28, 2010
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department affirmed findings of misconduct involving neglect of immigration matters but reduced the referee's proposed six-month suspension to a public censure. The court found mitigating factors that warranted a non-suspensory sanction:
...the only issue is that of the appropriate sanction to impose. In mitigation, respondent submitted evidence of his reputation in the legal community, his high rate of success (90-95% of cases won on the trial and appellate levels), his dedication to his clients and their satisfaction with his services, the nature of his practice, primarily work with immigrants and asylum seekers, his advocacy on behalf of victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) and his work to have FGM recognized as a basis for seeking asylum, and the notable changes respondent instituted in response to an admonition, including implementation of a computerized calendar system, staff training, and a reduction in caseload, which were designed to, and succeeded in, preventing recurrences of neglect. While nine instances of neglect over a two-year period is not insignificant, the neglect constituted only a small percentage of the 5,000-6,000 cases handled by respondent's office. Further, respondent has fully cooperated with the proceedings, admitted the majority of the charges and factual allegations, and claims to have since made restitution to the affected clients.
We find that under the circumstances, public censure, rather than suspension, is the appropriate sanction.
The prior admonition was not considered to be an aggravating factor because the misconduct found here took place before the admonition had been issued. (Mike Frisch)