Wednesday, October 10, 2018
A suspension of three months and until further order was imposed by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department
In April 2014, respondent agreed to prepare a notice of claim on behalf of a client, V., who wanted to sue the City of New York for injuries sustained as the result of a slip-and-fall inside a building owned and operated by the New York City Housing Authority. Respondent failed to enter into a retainer agreement with V. Respondent falsely informed V., and then later falsely testified at his examination under oath before the Committee, that he had filed the notice of claim. Respondent further testified that V.'s file, along with other client files, may have been in his car when seized by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for nonpayment of parking tickets. Respondent did not recover his car from the impound lot because the value of his car was less than the total amount due on the tickets and related towing and impound fees.
Sometime in June 2017, respondent mailed two money orders totaling $1,000 to his prior client, S., whom respondent had previously represented in a criminal matter. The money orders were sent to S. while he was incarcerated. However, because respondent had not signed the money orders, the correctional institution considered them to be contraband. Pursuant to the correctional institution's instructions, S. returned the money orders to respondent on or about June 21, 2017 explaining the situation.
In a letter dated July 10, 2017, the correctional institution assured S. that the money orders had been mailed to respondent. On July 11, 2017, S. wrote to respondent asking if he had received the money orders, but respondent failed to answer the letter. On July 18, 2017, S. spoke with respondent, who informed S. that he had not received the money orders back from the correctional institution. On July 20, 2017, the correctional institution's Correspondence Unit confirmed that the money orders had been mailed to respondent a month earlier, on June 22, 2017. On July 29, August 10, and August 15, 2017, S. again wrote to respondent, but he failed to respond to any of these letters.
In late August 2017, S. filed a complaint against respondent with the Grievance Committee. On September 29, 2017, the Committee mailed the complaint to respondent and requested that he answer the complaint within 20 days; respondent did not do so. On November 6, 2017, the Committee sent a certified letter, which was delivered on November 9, 2017, again requesting that respondent answer the complaint, but he failed to respond. On December 5 and December 15, 2017, the Committee left voicemails for respondent concerning his failure to answer the complaint, but he still did not respond. On December 18, 2017, the Committee sent respondent a third letter, and again requested an answer within 10 days.
On December 26, 2017, the Committee received respondent's answer, which was dated December 11, 2017. In his answer, respondent stated that he had received the money orders "sometime in mid-October," admitted that he had agreed to return money to S., and represented that he would do so within "the next 30 days".
According to the parties' joint affirmation, dated June 26, 2018, as of April 24, 2018 respondent has failed to send the money orders to S.