Wednesday, October 5, 2022
The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department imposed a five-year suspension of an attorney on findings of misconduct in various matters including misappropriation and
Charge four alleges that the respondent engaged in a conflict of interest, in violation of rule 1.7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, as follows: The respondent is a co-owner of Charging Bull Realty Corp. (hereinafter Charging Bull). In or about 2019, the owner of a condominium hired Charging Bull to act as the broker in the sale of said property. The respondent thereafter also agreed to represent the owner in the sale of her condominium.
All misconduct findings were sustained
In finding the respondent’s testimony was not credible, the Special Referee noted that the respondent “offered conflicting explanations, irrelevant facts and deliberate evasive replies.” The respondent testified “in a manner seeking to obfuscate, mislead and deliberately seek to change the subject.” The Special Referee noted that the respondent’s defenses were “deliberately naive” and unsupported even by the evidence presented by the respondent. We find no basis in the record to disturb the Special Referee’s credibility determination, which is entitled to great weight (see Matter of Maggipinto, 125 AD3d 31; Matter of Rodeman, 65 AD3d 350).
In determining an appropriate measure of discipline to impose, we have considered, in mitigation, evidence that the respondent’s conduct occurred during a period when he experienced health issues for which he sought medical treatment and the absence of a disciplinary history. Notwithstanding the mitigation advanced, the respondent has engaged in serious misconduct including, inter alia, the misappropriation of funds entrusted to him as a fiduciary; entering into an improper fee sharing agreement with a nonlawyer; engaging in a conflict of interest by representing the seller of a condominium while also having a financial interest in the brokerage company representing the seller; neglecting a client’s legal matter, resulting in the dismissal of the client’s action; and failing to cooperate with the Grievance Committee’s investigation of multiple complaints. We have also considered, in aggravation, that the respondent has neither accepted responsibility for his conduct nor expressed genuine remorse; and delayed returning the down payment to Toumbekis—returning it only after Toumbekis filed a complaint with the Grievance Committee.