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In re Goodman

June 8, 2010

IN THE MATTER OF WARREN SCOTT GOODMAN, A SUSPENDED ATTORNEY.
GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE FOR THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT, PETITIONER;
v.
WARREN SCOTT GOODMAN, RESPONDENT. (ATTORNEY REGISTRATION NO. 2361566)



DISCIPLINARY proceeding instituted by the Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District. By decision and order on motion of this Court dated January 24, 2008, the respondent was suspended from the practice of law pursuant to 22 NYCRR 691.4 (l)(1)(i) and (iii), the Grievance Committee was authorized to institute and prosecute a disciplinary proceeding against the respondent based on a petition dated October 17, 2007, and the issues raised were referred to the Honorable Lewis L. Douglass, as Special Referee to hear and report. By decision and order on motion of this Court dated March 4, 2009, the Grievance Committee was authorized to supplement the original petition with additional charges set forth in a supplemental petition dated December 18, 2008, the respondent was directed to serve an answer to the supplemental petition, and the issues raised were referred to Special Referee Douglass to hear and report, along with the charges previously referred to him.

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, PETER B. SKELOS and STEVEN W. FISHER, JJ.

The respondent was admitted to the Bar at a term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department on August 16, 1990. The Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District (hereinafter the Grievance Committee) served the respondent with a petition dated October 17, 2007, containing eleven charges of professional misconduct, and a supplemental petition dated December 18, 2008, containing two additional charges of professional misconduct. After a hearing held on June 2, 2009, and June 10, 2009, the Special Referee sustained all thirteen charges. The Grievance Committee now moves to confirm the Special Referee's report and impose such discipline upon the respondent as the Court deems just and proper. The respondent cross-moves to disaffirm the Special Referee's report as to charges two, four, five, twelve, and thirteen and to dismiss those charges, confirm the report as to the remaining charges, impose a period of suspension not to exceed two years, and reinstate him to the practice of law upon the completion of that period of suspension.

Charge one alleges that the respondent neglected a legal matter entrusted to him, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 6-101(a)(3) (22 NYCRR 1200.30[a][3]). The respondent was retained in 2001 to prosecute an action on behalf of Oleg Levinscy to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained in a motor vehicle accident occurring in January 1999. The respondent purchased an index number and filed an action in January 2002, but failed to properly serve the initiating papers on the defendants. Thus, no action was commenced. The respondent attempted to commence a new action in July 2006, but the action was dismissed as time-barred.

Charge two alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness to practice law, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-101(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.30[a][7]). The respondent notified Mr. Levinscy of the commencement of the second action, without acknowledging responsibility for the failure to properly commence the first action, thereby misleading Mr. Levinscy.

Charge three alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness to practice law, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-101(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][7]). The respondent never notified Mr. Levinscy of the dismissal of the first action.

Charge four alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-101(a)(5) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][5]). In response to the complaint of Mr. Levinscy, the respondent submitted an answer dated February 15, 2006, wherein he stated that Mr. Levinscy's action was "presently active" and that he "hope[d] to have a conference on it soon." On February 15, 2006, there was no action pending because no action had been commenced. The respondent's assertions were made with reckless disregard for the truth or were intentionally false. Thus, the respondent failed to cooperate with the Grievance Committee's lawful investigation.

Charge five alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness to practice law, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-101(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][7]) based on the factual specifications alleged in charge four.

Charge six alleges that the respondent neglected a legal matter entrusted to him, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 6-101(a)(3) (22 NYCRR 1200.30[a][3]). The respondent was retained to prosecute an action on behalf of Louis Brusati to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained in February 1998. The respondent commenced the action in the Supreme Court, Westchester County. By decision and order dated January 26, 2004, the court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment dismissing the action. The respondent failed to advise Mr. Brusati of the dismissal until May 27, 2004, by which date the time to file a notice of appeal had expired.

Charge seven alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness to practice law by continuing to neglect a matter entrusted to him, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 6-101(a)(3) (22 NYCRR 1200.30[a][3]). The respondent was retained in or about 1997 to prosecute an action on behalf of Amaury Maldonado to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained in a pedestrian-automobile accident in August 1997. The respondent commenced an action in August 2000. The defendants failed to appear. The respondent filed a motion for a default judgment in 2004. In or about January 2005, the motion was denied as untimely and the action was dismissed. The respondent failed to advise Mr. Maldonado of the dismissal until March 13, 2006, a lapse of 13 months, by which time Mr. Maldonado's potential appellate remedies were time-barred.

Charge eight alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness to practice law, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-101(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][7]). In February 2005, the respondent appeared before the Grievance Committee and did not apprise it of the disposition of the Maldonado action. Rather, the respondent assured the Grievance Committee that he would diligently pursue the action, including timely communicating with the client.

Charge nine alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law by failing to promptly address his client's inquiries, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-102(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][7]). In August 2005 and February 2006, inquiries were made of the respondent regarding the Maldonado action. The respondent did not address the inquiries until March 2006.

Charge ten alleges that the respondent engaged in conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness to practice law, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-101(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a][7]). In March 2006, the respondent advised Mr. Maldonado that his action was dismissed, and further advised that he believed that he could recommence the lawsuit and would still ...


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