Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Jimmie L. Engram, 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 August 6, 1974.
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.
Luis A. Gonzalez, Presiding Justice, Peter Tom, Dianne T. Renwick, Leland G. DeGrasse and Sheila Abdus-Salaam,Justices.
Respondent Jimmie L. Engram was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the First Judicial Department on August 6, 1974. At all times relevant to this proceeding respondent has maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Judicial Department.
The Departmental Disciplinary Committee now seeks an order pursuant to 22 NYCRR 603.4(e)(1)(i) and (iii), immediately suspending respondent from the practice of law until further order of the Court based upon his failure to cooperate with the Committee's investigation of six complaints filed against him and a notice by the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (the Fund) of a dishonored check drawn on respondent's IOLA account, as well as uncontested evidence of professional misconduct which threatens the public interest. Respondent has not submitted opposition to this motion.
In July 2008, the Committee received a notice from the Fund that a check drawn on respondent's IOLA account for $869.10 had been dishonored. Despite several requests by the Committee, made over a period of months, for a written explanation for this dishonored check, respondent failed to respond until the Committee advised him that his continued failure to respond could result in an interim suspension. By letter dated November 17, 2008, respondent explained that the overdraft was the result of his mistaken use of his Chase IOLA account instead of his Chase business account to make a payment by telephone to cover an overdraft involving his personal account at HSBC and that his IOLA account had no client funds in it at the time that the check was dishonored. Respondent attributed his delay in responding to his involvement in a federal trial.
The Committee determined that it was necessary to obtain respondent's escrow records but repeated requests by the Committee to respondent for these records went unheeded. The Committee then obtained a subpoena duces tecum from this Court to procure respondent's Chase IOLA records. Once those escrow records were received, the Committee's investigative accountant created Excel spreadsheets in order to reconcile respondent's account, which were then forwarded to respondent with a letter asking him to supply certain missing information. This letter also warned respondent that his continued failure to submit the bank records could, without more, result in his interim suspension. Another follow-up letter to respondent went unanswered.
Thereafter the Committee had respondent served with a subpoena duces tecum, directing him to appear at the Committee and to bring bank records. Respondent did not appear for his deposition, nor did he contact the Committee. The Committee wrote to respondent giving him another opportunity to appear on a specific date, and warned that his failure to appear would compel the DDC to move for his interim suspension. On the scheduled deposition day, the Committee received a letter by fax from respondent's accountant, along with various ledger documents for respondent's IOLA account which the accountant had prepared, and a representation that respondent would be forwarding bank statements under separate cover. The Committee received from respondent the bank statements previously requested and his "general ledger, checkbook ledger." Using these documents, the Committee's accountant commenced a reconciliation of the IOLA account, but found that there was still some missing information. The Committee forwarded the updated spreadsheets to respondent asking him to fill in the columns marked "Client Matter" for every deposit and disbursement that respondent had yet to identify, and to return the information within 10 days. When the deadline passed and no response was received, the Committee again wrote respondent noting the resumption of his non-cooperation and that if it continued, his interim suspension would be sought. Although respondent was given 10 more days to cooperate, no response or contact was made.
While the Committee was investigating the dishonored check matter, six clients filed complaints against respondent.
In May 2009, the Committee received a complaint from Guy Minto alleging that he had retained respondent about two months earlier for $2,500 to help him with a "straw" real estate deal, but that respondent had failed to return his phone calls. The Committee made repeated contact with respondent, seeking an answer to the complaint, but respondent did not answer until months later, after the Committee served him with a subpoena directing him to appear and testify. On the morning of the deposition, respondent sent a fax to the Committee consisting of a letter in which he stated that he could not appear "on only two (2) days notice," and asking to reschedule the deposition to a later date. Respondent also answered Minto's complaint, explaining that he was retained by Minto on March 5, 2009 and after spending the entire month of March going through almost 100 pages of documents, he was about ready to complete a summons and complaint when his secretary informed him that Minto wanted his money back. Respondent stated that he did, in fact, try to return Minto's telephone calls but to no avail.
The Committee agreed to reschedule respondent's deposition and obtained a subpoena for respondent's appearance for October 22, 2009 regarding both the dishonored check matter and the Minto complaint. On the day of the deposition, respondent faxed a letter to the DDC asking for an adjournment, stating that he was in the process of retaining ...