Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Decade Of Unauthorized Practice Draws A Lengthy Suspension

An attorney's unauthorized practice while administratively suspended has resulted in a 3 1/2 year suspension from the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department

By order of October 21, 2010, this Court suspended respondent from the practice of law, until further order of this Court, as part of a mass suspension proceeding, for failure to file attorney registration statements and pay biennial registration fees in violation of Judiciary Law § 468-a... 

In 2019, the Attorney Grievance Committee (AGC) filed a Petition of Charges against respondent alleging that she: failed to meet her registration obligations from 2004 to 2018, failed to provide the Office of Court Administration (OCA) with her updated contact information as required, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law while suspended, submitted an affidavit in support of a motion for reinstatement in which she incorrectly attested that she was in full compliance with CLE requirements without first verifying such was the case, and failed to promptly comply with the AGC's request for her employment history.

Now, by joint notice of motion, the AGC and respondent ask this Court, pursuant to the Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters (22 NYCRR) § 1240.8(a)(5), to suspend her for 3½ years.

Charges followed a petition for reinstatement

On June 21, 2018, the AGC received a letter from respondent's former employer advising that on May 30, 2018 BNY Mellon learned that respondent, who worked as an attorney for BNY Mellon's wholly owned subsidiary Pershing LLC, had been suspended. Notwithstanding her suspension, since her hiring in September 2015, and several times throughout her employment, she represented to BNY Mellon that she was licensed to practice law in New York, and it appeared she worked in a legal role at Pershing while suspended. On or about May 31, 2018, BNY Mellon confronted respondent with its discovery of her suspension and terminated her employment on June 1, 2018. Respondent is presently employed at a law firm.

During her August 14, 2019 deposition before the AGC, respondent admitted that she received notices that her attorney registration was delinquent, but she was unaware that her license to practice law was suspended until her employment was terminated.

In her June 8, 2018 affidavit in support of her motion for reinstatement, respondent asserted that even though she was delinquent in fulfilling her registration obligations, her intention was to do so, as evidenced by the fact that she purportedly fulfilled her CLE requirements (24 credits each biennial period) and she attested that she had certificates of attendance to verify such. The AGC requested that respondent produce her CLE certificates documenting at least 24 credits for each biennial cycle since 2002. Respondent was unable to evidence full compliance since some certificates for this period "were apparently lost." In addition, between May and June 2019, the AGC made several requests for respondent to produce a list of all her employers since 2002 but she did not provide the list until August 2019.

On sanction

The parties have stipulated to the following factors in aggravation:

Respondent admits that at some point she became aware that her attorney registration was delinquent, but she failed to take any steps to bring her registration current and pay the outstanding registration fees.

The parties have stipulated to the following factors in mitigation:

Respondent has shown remorse and acceptance of responsibility for her misconduct, she presented letters attesting to her good character, and she has no prior discipline.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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