The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, JR.
On July 6, 1994, Chief Judge Thomas J. McAvoy issued an order imposing reciprocal discipline of public censure on respondent Ronald R. Benjamin based on a decision that rendered similar discipline by the New York State Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department on June 24, 1994, pursuant to Local Rule 83.4(d). The Third Department found that respondent violated Disciplinary Rule 1-102(A)(4) of the Code of Professional Responsibility by attempting to mislead and deceive the court and opposing counsel on three separate occasions. On July 25, 1994, respondent submitted an order to show cause application under Local Rule 83.4(d), which was referred to this court.
Local Rule 83.4(d), derived from Selling v. Radford, 243 U.S. 46, 61 L. Ed. 585, 37 S. Ct. 377 (1917), provides that:
Any member of the bar of the Northern District . . . who shall be disciplined by a court in any State . . . shall be disciplined to the same extent by this court unless an examination of the record resulting in the discipline discloses:
(A) that the procedure was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process;
(B) that there was such an infirmity of proof establishing the misconduct as to give rise to the clear conviction that this court should not accept as final the conclusion on that subject;
(C) that the imposition of the same discipline by this court would result in grave injustice; or
(D) that the misconduct has been held by this court to warrant substantially different discipline.
A. Lack of Adequate Notice
Respondent argues that under Local Rule 83.4(d)(A) he was denied specific notice of the charges against him because the initial allegation, making an "inaccurate" legal argument as to the res judicata effect of a prior Family Court decision, was amended, to one of making a "specious" argument. Respondent claims that making an "inaccurate" argument lacks the deceptive intent of making a "specious" argument. Thus respondent contends that he was not given proper notice. This argument is flawed for two reasons.
First, respondent fails to recognize that the overall charge against him, which the court never amended, alleged that "respondent attempted to mislead and deceive the court and opposing counsel." See Petition of Charges and Specifications ("Petition") at 2. This charge clearly includes the deceptive intent of a "specious" argument, thereby affording respondent specific notice of the allegation against him. Second, even if respondent relied on the initial allegation, respondent had notice that he was charged with improperly claiming re judicata. See Petition at 2. The Eleventh Circuit rejected an argument similar to that of respondent's in Greer's Refuse Service Inc. v. Browning-Ferris Industries, 843 F.2d 443 (1988). The claimant in Greer's argued that he was disbarred on an unnoticed charge because the order disbarring him referred to his having converted and misappropriated a client's funds, while the complaint charged him with misappropriating funds transmitted to him in escrow by opposing counsel. Id. at 447. The court held that while "the charge in the court's formal opinion was not a model of clarity. . . . the fact remains that [claimant] was charged with misappropriating the funds and had adequate notice of that charge." Id. at 448. Consequently, the court finds that whether respondent was charged with making an "inaccurate" argument or a "specious" argument, he had adequate notice that he was being accused of improperly asserting a res judicata argument with the purpose of misleading and deceiving the court and opposing counsel in violatio of Disciplinary Rule 1-102(A)(4).
B. Opportunity to be Heard
Respondent next argues that the court denied him an opportunity to be heard under Local Rule 83.4(d)(A) because the Third Department's Memorandum and Order does not address the constitutional claims raised by respondent. Respondent mistakenly characterizes the opportunity to be heard as a substantive protection rather than a procedural one. The mere fact that respondent was afforded the opportunity to present his constitutional arguments to the Third Department satisfies this procedural protection. See e.g., In re Evans, 834 F.2d 90, 91 (4th Cir. 1987).
Furthermore, by arguing that he was denied the opportunity to be heard because the Third Department found his constitutional claims unworthy of mention, see Respondent's Memorandum of Law in Support of Show Cause Application at 7, respondent is improperly asking for substantive de novo review. Local Rule 83.4(d) clearly states that reciprocal discipline will be imposed "unless an examination of the record resulting in the discipline discloses" the listed deficiencies (emphasis added). In addition, federal courts have consistently held that the reviewing court need only examine the record of the lower ...