April 5, 2012
When Time Ran Out
An attorney who neglected an appeal and tried to cover up by providing a false "stamped received" document to the client's wife was suspended for two years by the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department.
The court described the misconduct:
....Zoraida Arafet retained the respondent to prosecute a criminal appeal on behalf of her husband, Nasin Arafet. The Arafet family paid the respondent the sum of $7,500 in legal fees. In or about August 2006, the respondent met with Mrs. Arafet and provided her with a copy of a brief that he had purportedly filed in the Appellate Division, Third Department. The cover page of the brief contained a fraudulent receipt stamp from the Appellate Division, Third Department, which reflected that the brief had been received by the Clerk of that Court in or about August 2006. At the time that the respondent gave the aforesaid brief to Mrs. Arafet, he knew that the receipt stamp was fraudulent, as he had not perfected the appeal.
In mitigation, the respondent asks that the Court consider his state of the mind at the time, the stresses placed on him by his wife and family, the financial difficulties of starting up a new law practice, the long hours he was putting in working on document review projects in order to supplement his income, and the depression he experienced as a result of his stressful situation.
Although the respondent testified that he was depressed, he offered little other proof of his condition. The respondent met with a counselor for the first time in December 2010; however, the incident underlying the charges here occurred in August 2006. Claiming to be depressed, the respondent, nonetheless, was able to work, in effect, two jobs—his own cases and different document review projects. Based on this evidence, the Special Referee gave little credence to the respondent's explanation for his misconduct.
It is undisputed that the respondent intended to mislead his client into believing that he had perfected the appeal when he had not done so. Notwithstanding the fact that the respondent was merely trying to "buy time" in order to finish the brief, he engaged in deceitful conduct towards his client in a criminal matter.
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