Monday, April 4, 2011

Malady Does Not Prevent Reciprocal Suspension

The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department imposed a one-year suspension as reciprocal discipline for a sanction imposed in South Carolina. The court sets out the history:

Charges of professional misconduct were brought against the respondent in June 2007, and a hearing was conducted before a Hearing Panel of the Commission on Lawyer Conduct on December 12, 2007.

As revealed in the Hearing Panel's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the respondent was admitted to the Bar in South Carolina in 1989. He moved to New York and gained admission to the Bar in New York and New Jersey in 1990. In 2001 he returned to South Carolina and became an associate at Turner Padget Graham & Laney. Shortly before and after the respondent's employment was terminated at the law firm on February 4, 2004, billing and reimbursement irregularities were discovered by the law firm.

The respondent admitted to the factual allegations made against him. He fully cooperated with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (hereinafter ODC). The Hearing Panel recommended a sanction of no more than 180 days of definite suspension. The ODC appealed and urged a harsher sanction.

The Supreme Court of the State of South Carolina, in its Opinion No. 26602 filed February 17, 2009, determined that the respondent's conduct warranted a harsher sanction than a 180-day suspension. The court found that "[r]espondent over a period of one year engaged in a pattern of conduct that was deliberate, purposeful, deceitful and fraudulent. Not only did [r]espondent overcharge clients for his time, he also altered documents to falsify reimbursement expenses. Furthermore, . . ., he never self-reported his misconduct to the ODC."

The respondent has submitted a response in which he states that he accepts full responsibility for his actions in violating Rules 1.5 and 8.4(a), (d) and (e) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. He further states that he was suffering from a malady at the time, but has since made significant progress in overcoming such malady. He notes that he has served the terms of his suspension and complied with all conditions of the order of suspension of the South Carolina court. Hence, he requests that no further action be taken against him by this Court.

The suspension imposed in South Carolina was for nine months. (Mike Frisch)

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