DISCIPLINARY proceeding instituted by the Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District. The respondent was admitted to the Bar at a term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department on November 29, 1995. By decision and order on application of this Court dated October 8, 2008, as amended by decision and order on application of this Court dated December 12, 2008, the Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District was authorized to institute and prosecute a disciplinary proceeding against the respondent, and the issues raised were referred to the Honorable Stanley Harwood, as Special Referee to hear and report.
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., REINALDO E. RIVERA, PETER B. SKELOS, STEVEN W. FISHER and JOHN M. LEVENTHAL, JJ.
(Attorney Registration No. 2707800)
The Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District (hereinafter the Grievance Committee) served the respondent with a petition dated July 15, 2008, containing six charges of professional misconduct. After a preliminary conference on January 29, 2009, and a hearing on May 20, 2009, the Special Referee sustained all six charges. The Grievance Committee now moves to confirm the findings of the Special Referee and to impose such discipline as the Court may deem just and proper. The respondent has cross-moved to confirm the Special Referee's report to the extent that it sustains Charges One, Two, Four, Five, and Six, to disaffirm the report to the extent that it sustains Charge Three, and to limit the sanction imposed to a public censure.
Charge One alleges that the respondent violated his fiduciary obligations by failing to maintain and preserve funds belonging to another person, entrusted to him, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 9-102(a) (22 NYCRR 1200.46[a]).
In or about 2004, the respondent represented John Jeske, a/k/a John Jeski, in the sale of real property located in the Bronx, as well as in an estate matter concerning the real property which was the subject of that sale. The contract of sale, dated January 5, 2004, provided for a down payment in the sum of $27,500. On or about January 6, 2004, the respondent was entrusted as fiduciary with a certified check drawn in the sum of $20,000, as well as $7,500 in cash. He deposited those funds into his attorney trust account.
The respondent should have maintained at least $27,500 in his attorney trust account between the date of deposit, January 6, 2004, and the closing, June 30, 2005. The balance fell below that sum on 13 occasions between January 31, 2004, and May 31, 2005.
At the closing, the respondent issued an attorney trust check in the amount of $2,000, payable to John Jeske. That check was posted to the account on July 5, 2005. At the closing, the respondent received the sum of $2,500 for legal fees related to his representation of John Jeske. He returned the balance of the down payment by check dated November 9, 2006, in the amount of $25,500.02, payable to Jeske's new attorney. That check was posted to the respondent's attorney trust account on November 20, 2006. Although the respondent should have maintained a minimum of $25,500 in his attorney trust account between June 30, 2005, the date of the closing, and November 20, 2006, the date the check was posted to the account, the balance dropped below that amount on 10 occasions.
Charge Two alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer, by failing to preserve funds entrusted to him as a fiduciary, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-102(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a]), based on the factual specifications of Charge One.
Charge Four alleges that the respondent commingled personal funds with funds belonging to another person by depositing them into his attorney trust account, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 9-102(a) (22 NYCRR 1200.46[a]).
In or about March 2004, the respondent represented Chukwuma K. Uwechia and received the sum of $65,000 in legal fees related to that representation. On March 30, 2004, he deposited ...