Tuesday, April 24, 2012
An attorney charged with misusing a power of attorney obtained from his uncle (who was also his law partner) has been suspended for two years and until further order by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department:
In 1982, respondent joined the law practice of his uncle, Henry Isaacson, Esq., eventually becoming a partner. In 2001, Lee Snow, Esq. drafted Isaacson's will, which named respondent and Snow as co-executors and divided the estate in equal shares among his four siblings or their surviving issue per stirpes, which would have entitled respondent to an 8⅓% share. Snow also drafted a "Durable Power of Attorney Effective at a Future Time" (the POA) which granted enumerated powers to respondent if Isaacson became incapacitated in the future, to be effective if accompanied by documentation from a physician attesting to Isaacson's incapacity. Isaacson died on March 11, 2007.
The heart of the misconduct:
Here, in furtherance of his plan to change title to Isaacson's accounts for his own benefit, respondent falsely told Snow that he needed the POA to reinstate dormant HSBC [bank] accounts. He then misused the POA, without first obtaining a medical certification as to Isaacson's incapacity, to transfer approximately $600,000 of Isaacson's money to himself during the weeks before Isaacson's death. Respondent returned the funds to Isaacson's estate only after he was removed as co-executor by the Surrogate's Court, conceivably to avoid a potential charge of intentional conversion in violation of DR 1-102(A)(4) that could have subjected him to disbarment...Respondent then compounded this misconduct by testifying falsely that he had permission to make the transfers, which gives rise to the inference that he likely suborned false testimony by Steinberg. This aggravating factor is not outweighed by respondent's testimony as to the pressures he was under caring for his uncle, raising four young children and attending to his practice, all while his wife was away for extended periods in Canada caring for her critically ill mother, or by his religious and charitable activities within the Orthodox Jewish community.