Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Craig J.J. Snyder, was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York at a Term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the First Judicial Department on March 5, 1990.
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.
David Friedman, Justice Presiding, James M. McGuire, Dianne T. Renwick, Rosalyn H. Richter, Sallie Manzanet-Daniels, Justices.
M-4624 (November 4, 2009)
Respondent Craig J.J. Snyder was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the First Judicial Department on March 5, 1990. At all times relevant herein, respondent has maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Department.
The Departmental Disciplinary Committee (Committee) seeks an order, pursuant to 22 NYCRR 603.4(e)(1)(iii), immediately suspending respondent from the practice of law until further order of this Court based upon uncontested evidence of respondent's professional misconduct which immediately threatens the public interest.
This matter commenced with the Committee's receipt of a complaint dated June 15, 2009 filed against respondent by Christopher R. Kraft, Esq. ("Kraft Complaint"). Kraft is the attorney for Honor Mulligan, the 88-year-old survivor of her son, William Mulligan, who in 1982 was murdered by Michael Donohue, a client of respondent.
Donohue had retained respondent to represent him in various collateral civil actions against the government, which resulted in a settlement award of $400,000 to Donahue.
By order to show cause dated November 29, 2004, the Crime Victim's Board moved on behalf of William Mulligan's relatives for an injunction requiring respondent to hold the net settlement proceedings in an escrow account pending the outcome of any claims to the proceeds by the crime victims. Respondent agreed to hold the net settlement fees in his escrow account and valued that amount at $244,426.67. Accordingly, by order dated March 24, 2005, Hon. Joseph Teresi (Sup. Ct. Albany Co.) granted the Crime Victim Board's motion for an injunction.
Kraft, on behalf of his client Honor Mulligan, commenced a wrongful death action against Donahue. Following litigation, a judgment against Donahue in the sum of $500,000 was entered on December 18, 2008 in Supreme Court, Ulster County (Henry F. Zwack, J.). Kraft sought an order modifying Judge Teresi's injunction to allow for the release of the settlement funds from respondent to Kraft's law firm in partial satisfaction of the $500,000 judgment against Donahue. In granting Kraft's motion, by order dated April 1, 2009, Judge Teresi directed respondent to issue a check payable jointly to Mulligan and to Kraft's firm as attorneys for Mulligan, in the sum of $244,426.67.
In June 2009, counsel for respondent advised Kraft that respondent had withdrawn the funds from his escrow account and that the money was no longer available to pay the judgment to Mulligan, prompting Kraft's complaint to the Committee.
The Committee obtained respondent's bank records for the period November 2004-June 2009. A review of these records shows the following: On December 6, 2004, a $400,000 deposit was made into respondent's IOLA account, from which he obtained his legal fee for Donahue's award, plus costs and disbursements, leaving a balance belonging to Mulligan of $244,426.67. By January 31, 2005, the balance in respondent's IOLA account had fallen to $183,134.84. On March 31, 2005, only seven days after entry of the injunction, the balance in the IOLA account had fallen to $85,134.84. By July 29, 2005, the balance had fallen to $271.84. Thus, Mulligan's funds were depleted by respondent in a ...