February 8, 2013
An Immediate Threat Leads To immediate Suspension
Rejecting an attorney's contention that the evidence did not establish that he was an immediate threat to the public, the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department suspended an attorney pending further disciplinary proceedings.
The court considered the following facts:
The Committee began its investigation into respondent's conduct when it received notice from the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection that a check drawn on respondent's IOLA account was returned for insufficient funds. In its initial investigation it obtained respondent's bank records, and, since respondent did not keep a ledger regarding this account, their forensic accountant created a ledger, about which respondent was then deposed. Respondent admitted to over 10 occasions on which he wrote checks on his secrow account, payable to himself, unrelated to client matters, and to failing to maintain a ledger reflecting the transactions on the account. In addition, the bank records reflect that he deposited his own funds into the escrow account.
The attorney's plea against interim suspension:
Respondent protests that he does not present an immediate threat to the public interest, since each of his clients received all the funds due to them when they were due and there have been no client complaints, and since he fully cooperated with the Committee's investigation and ceased all such misconduct over two years ago. He also asserts in mitigation his volunteer work in cultural and community activities, and the hardship that suspension would cause him, his life partner, and those of his clients who cannot afford to hire new counsel.
The court was unmoved. (Mike Frisch)
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