October 4, 2010
The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department imposed a six-month suspension on a attorney who had violated escrow obligations. The court found that the mitigation warranted the sanction:
In mitigation, the respondent testified that he came to the United States for college and that English was not his first language. Upon graduating from law school, he embarked on a career in corporate law and finance. In 2005, he left corporate law and opened a neighborhood law office, handling immigration and real estate matters. He admitted that he was unfamiliar with the rules governing escrow accounts. He opened three accounts: a checking account, an escrow account, and a money market account, all linked. The respondent testified that he did not realize at the time that transferring escrow funds back and forth between accounts was improper.
When apprised by the Grievance Committee that his escrow practices were improper, the respondent immediately ceased such practices. He was remorseful and candid throughout the Grievance Committee's investigation.
Notwithstanding the mitigation proffered, the respondent is held to the knowledge of the rules governing attorney escrow accounts. His misguided attempts to safeguard his clients' funds violated the rules governing attorney escrow accounts, and as such, constitute professional misconduct.
When an attorney enters into the type of practice that requires personal attention to escrow obligations, training in the principles of trust accounting is essential. (Mike Frisch)
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