July 21, 2011
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department imposed a six-month suspension of an immigration attorney who experienced practice difficulties described in the opinion:
Respondent represented immigration clients, primarily in asylum matters, conducting business from her office at 1170 Broadway in Manhattan. The majority of respondent's clients were from the French-speaking countries of West Africa, and because few of them spoke any English, she communicated with them through interpreters.
Respondent testified that her practice began to fail due to sabotage by disloyal employees who began to steer respondent's business to another immigration attorney. Ultimately, due to the fact that respondent had few new clients in 2004, she was forced to close her office in August 2005. Thereafter, she met clients in restaurants and coffee shops and used the office of another attorney, located at 292 Fifth Avenue, for the purpose of interviewing and meeting with clients.
A primary issue at the hearing concerned the steps respondent took to notify her clients about the closing of her office and how they could contact her. Respondent testified that clients with pending cases were informed in person that she would be closing her office and provided with phone numbers and the address of a nearby Fifth Avenue office she sometimes used. Respondent claimed to have apprised her clients of the office closure, but was unable at the hearing to produce the letters she allegedly sent to them informing of the closure.
Shortly thereafter, respondent moved to Teaneck, New Jersey. Respondent testified that she kept the files of the clients with pending cases accessible at her mother's Teaneck home and put the older cases into storage. However, respondent did not produce certain client files pursuant to the Committee's investigation and ultimately testified that she believed she may have accidently placed a few client files with pending matters into inaccessible storage.
The misconduct primarily involved neglect and failure to cooperate with the investigation. (Mike Frisch)
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