Thursday, August 2, 2018
An attorney's misconduct in a criminal case drew a public censure from the New York Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department
The factual specifications supporting the charges of the verified petition stem from the respondent’s representation of Gordon Woolf in a criminal case, and are as follows:
On June 4, 2013, federal agents arrested Woolf and charged him with having violated federal criminal statutes. On June 10, 2013, the respondent met with Woolf, who was then incarcerated in a federal detention facility awaiting arraignment. Luigi Vigliotti, Esq., accompanied the respondent to this meeting with Woolf. The respondent and Vigliotti were not law partners, and Vigliotti was not the respondent’s employee. During the meeting, Woolf executed a retainer agreement with “The Law Offices of Anthony J. Colleluori & Associates, PLLC,” and agreed to a $35,000 retainer fee, which was paid by Woolf on or before June 16, 2013.
On June 10, 2013, the respondent filed a notice of appearance in United States v Woolf, case No. 2:13-mj-00475, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. A few days later, on June 12, 2013, the respondent represented Woolf at a detention hearing in the District Court, which resulted in Woolf’s release from custody that day.
After receiving the retainer fee and before July 12, 2013, the respondent paid $14,000 of the $35,000 retainer to Vigliotti, without advising Woolf and without obtaining Woolf’s written consent.
The respondent was discharged by Woolf on or about July 12, 2013. At that time, Woolf requested the respondent to refund any unused portion of the retainer fee. In response, the respondent advised Woolf that he had previously given $14,000 to Vigliotti. The respondent also told Woolf that Vigliotti had spent all but $4,900 of the $14,000, and $4,900 was all that could be refunded.
The client then complained.
In determining an appropriate measure of discipline to impose, the respondent contends that his admitted mistakes are “ministerial error only.” He requests that this Court issue him a private reprimand or a sanction no greater than a public censure in view of the mitigating evidence advanced, including evidence of his professional achievements and character, as well as the personal and medical difficulties he and his family have experienced. However, it is noted that the respondent’s disciplinary record is not unblemished, as he has received two Admonitions unrelated to this matter.
Under the totality of the circumstances, we find that a public censure is warranted