Application by the petitioner, Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh, and Thirteenth Judicial Districts, pursuant to 22 NYCRR 691.3, to impose discipline on the respondent based upon disciplinary action taken her by the Supreme Court for Suffolk County of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The respondent was admitted to the Bar in the State of New York at a term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department on June 2, 2004, under the name Fawn Daveen Balliro.
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 PETER B. SKELOS, JJ.
The application to impose reciprocal discipline is predicated upon an order of the Supreme Court for Suffolk County of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, dated January 29, 2009, which suspended the respondent for a period of six months.
On March 19, 2009, the respondent informed Grievance Counsel that she did not plan to submit a verified statement in response to the notice pursuant to 22 NYCRR 691.3 and that she understood that in the absence of such a statement, this Court would be free to take such disciplinary action as it deems appropriate.
At the time of the underlying misconduct, the respondent was an Assistant District Attorney in Massachusetts. She had been the victim of a domestic assault in Tennessee in 2005 as a result of a romantic relationship with an individual named Greg Knox, but refused to press charges or make a statement to the police.
She advised Knox not to talk with the police and asked them to leave. The police handcuffed the respondent and told her that she was under arrest for disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice. The respondent denied that Knox had hit her and claimed that she was assaulted while walking home. The police officer, who had driven the respondent to the apartment, arrived at the scene and informed the other officers that the respondent was uninjured when he saw her. The respondent did not allow herself to be photographed and she refused to sign the police report. She told police that she refused to press charges against the person who allegedly assaulted her on her way home. The police arrested Knox and charged him with two counts of domestic assault. The next morning, the respondent secured his release on bail and the two reconciled.
Two or three weeks later, Knox visited the respondent in Massachusetts and informed her that he was on probation for drug charges and would go to jail if he violated his probation. He did not know who would support his two minor daughters if he went to jail because his former wife was unemployed.
Concluding that Knox would be incarcerated if convicted, the respondent created a story about falling and injuring herself. She asked the victim witness advocate to inform the District Attorney that she would not press charges. In March 2005, the respondent received a summons to testify at Knox's trial. She did not consult an attorney because she was embarrassed by the incident and did not actually expect to have to testify.
The trial was held in Nashville Court of General Sessions on April 21, 2005. The Assistant District Attorney on the case had not yet been admitted to the Bar and had no formal training in domestic violence cases. He told the respondent that it was not possible to drop the charges and that he thought she was lying. The respondent testified under oath that she had fallen on a piece of furniture in Knox's apartment. The charges against Knox were dismissed and the respondent returned to Massachusetts.
In December 2005 a Tennessee District Attorney wrote to the Massachusetts District Attorney in whose office the respondent worked and informed her about the respondent's false testimony. The respondent was suspended from her job and advised to obtain counsel.
On June 2, 2006, Massachusetts bar counsel commenced formal proceedings against the respondent based on her false statements to the police and false testimony under oath at Knox's trial. The respondent admitted the substantive allegations but stated that her intoxication on the night of the incident, her physical abuse by Knox, and her precarious psychological state at the time ...