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In re Tavon

August 4, 2009

IN THE MATTER OF ROBERT TAVON, A SUSPENDED ATTORNEY.
GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE FOR THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT, PETITIONER
v.
ROBERT TAVON, RESPONDENT. (ATTORNEY REGISTRATION NO. 3981453)



Per curiam.

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

A. GAIL PRUDENTI, P.J., WILLIAM F. MASTRO, REINALDO E. RIVERA, ROBERT A. SPOLZINO and JOSEPH COVELLO, JJ.

DISCIPLINARY proceeding instituted by the Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District. By decision and order on motion of this Court dated July 18, 2007, the respondent was suspended from the practice of law pursuant to 22 NYCRR 691.4(l)(1)(ii) and (iii), the Grievance Committee was authorized to institute and prosecute a disciplinary proceeding against him based on a petition dated March 22, 2007, and a supplemental petition dated May 4, 2007, and the issues raised were referred to the Honorable Fred L. Shapiro, as Special Referee to hear and report. By decision and order on motion of this Court dated November 14, 2007, the respondent's motion for an order "lifting the suspension" of his right to practice law was denied. By decision and order on motion of this Court dated November 21, 2007, the Grievance Committee was authorized to supplement the previously-authorized petitions with nine additional charges set forth in a second supplemental petition dated September 20, 2007, and the issues raised were referred to the Honorable Fred L. Shapiro, as Special Referee to hear and report, together with the charges previously referred to him.

OPINION & ORDER

The respondent was admitted to the Bar at a term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department on June 26, 2001.

The Grievance Committee served the respondent with a verified petition dated March 22, 2007, a supplemental petition dated May 4, 2007, and a second supplemental petition dated November 21, 2007, containing all together 34 charges of professional misconduct. After a preliminary conference on November 13, 2007, and a hearing held on December 18, 2007, Special Referee Shapiro sustained Charges 1-5, 7-9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 19-22, 26, 30, and 32, and dismissed Charges 6, 10, 13, 16, 17, 25, 27-29, 31, 33, and 34. Charges 18, 23, and 24 were withdrawn. The Grievance Committee now moves to confirm the Special Referee's Report insofar as it sustained the various charges, to disaffirm the report insofar as it dismissed charges 6, 16, 17, 25, 27, 28, 31, 33, and 34, and to impose such discipline as the Court deems just and proper.

Charge one alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-102(a)(5) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][5]), by failing to promptly comply with the lawful demands of the Grievance Committee during its investigation of four complaints of professional misconduct filed by Cheng Hua Yin, Ben Juan Wu, Lawrence Dworkin, and Susan Palmiro. It is alleged that the respondent failed to timely submit answers to the complaints, submitted illegible handwritten responses, arrived late for scheduled examinations under oath, walked out of an examination while the examination was still in progress, failed to appear for various scheduled examinations under oath, and gave evasive and/or non-responsive answers while testifying under oath.

Charge two alleges that the respondent failed to act competently, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 6-101(a)(2) and (3) (22 NYCRR 1200.30[a][2] and [3]), by engaging in inadequate preparations and/or neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him by Cheng Hua Yin. It is alleged that on or about September 8, 2004, the respondent signed a "Consent to Change Attorneys" form, making the respondent the attorney of record for the plaintiff in an action entitled Cheng Hua Yin v Wang & Lee, Index No. 78398, NY City Civil Court; that the respondent never communicated with Cheng Hua Yin either before or after signing the form; that the respondent was paid $500 by Dennis Lan, the attorney who referred the case to the respondent, for services the respondent was to render; that the respondent thereafter filed a "Notice of Motion to Admit Late Service" regarding one of the defendants in the action, which was returnable on October 13, 2004; that the respondent did not appear in court on October 13, 2004; and that as a result of the respondent's failure to appear, the motion was denied.

Charge three alleges that the respondent failed to act competently, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 6-101(a)(2) and (3) (22 NYCRR 1200.30[a][2] and [3]), by engaging in inadequate preparations and/or neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him by Cheng Hua Yin. It is alleged that on or about December 15, 2004, the respondent was unaware of the status of the motion he had filed and had conducted no discovery in the action; that the respondent filed a false "Notice of Trial Readiness" as a ploy to force the defendants to settle; that the respondent failed to appear on March 1, 2005, the adjourned date for the trial; and that as a result of the respondent's failure to appear, the action was dismissed on default.

Charge four alleges the respondent permitted someone other than his client to improperly influence his independent professional judgment on behalf of his client, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 5-107(b) (22 NYCRR 1200.26[b]), by permitting the attorney who recommended the client to the respondent to direct or regulate the legal services rendered by the respondent without discussing the same with his client. It is alleged that the respondent, in the course of his representation of Cheng Hua Yin, never communicated directly with him, that the respondent routed all communications to and from Cheng Hua Yin through Dennis Lan; and that the respondent was paid by checks issued by Dennis Lan.

Charge five alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and/or other conduct that adversely reflected on his fitness as lawyer, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-102(a)(5) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][5]), by failing to timely appear on one or more return dates, scheduled at the respondent's request, in the Cheng Hua Yin matter, as set forth in charges two and three.

Charge seven alleges that the respondent failed to act competently, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 6-101(a)(3) (22 NYCRR 1200.30[a][3]), by engaging in inadequate preparations and/or neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him by Ben Juan Wu. It is alleged that in or about October 2004, Dennis Lan referred Ben Juan Wu to the respondent for representation regarding a custody and visitation matter; that the respondent met Ben Juan Wu and Dennis Lan to discuss the relief she sought and Ben Juan Wu provided the respondent with the necessary paperwork for filing the appropriate application for relief; and that the respondent failed to file the application for relief sought by Ben Juan Wu until on or about March 31, 2005 -- some five months later.

Charge eight alleges the respondent engaged in conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness as a lawyer, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-102(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][7]), by failing to comply with the requirements of 22 NYCRR 1400.1, 1400.2, and/or 1400.3. It is alleged that the respondent failed to provide Ben Juan Wu with a "Statement of Client Rights and Responsibilities" or have her execute a "Retainer Agreement," as required by 22 NYCRR ...


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