Decided on February 9, 2012
Appellate Division, First Department
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.
Richard T. Andrias,Justice Presiding, David Friedman James M. Catterson Dianne T. Renwick Leland G. DeGrasse,Justices.
Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Michael P. Zulandt, was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York at a Term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the Third Judicial Department on December 7, 1006.
M-1571 - May 6, 2011 IN THE MATTER OF MICHAEL P. ZULANDT, AN ATTORNEY
Respondent Michael P. Zulandt was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the Third Judicial Department on December 7, 2006. At all times relevant herein, he maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Judicial Department.
On December 24, 2008, respondent pleaded guilty to a charge of assault in the third degree (Penal Law § 120.00), a class A misdemeanor. In accordance with his plea agreement, the court sentenced respondent to ten months of incarceration, ordered restitution in the amount of $8,272.55, and entered a final order of protection against him. On June 23, 2009, respondent was released from custody after serving approximately six months in jail.
Respondent's criminal conviction stems from an argument that he had with the complainant, his former girlfriend, in her apartment on October 4, 2007. During the encounter, respondent repeatedly threw the complainant to the floor and slapped her about the face, causing physical injuries that required medical attention. During the assault, respondent called the complainant such derogatory names as "slut" and "whore". Respondent also destroyed or damaged various items of the complainant's personal property, including a Cartier watch that he smashed with a hammer, a purse that he filled with water, a painting that he punctured, and a couch that he damaged with water and oil.
The Departmental Disciplinary Committee served respondent with a notice and statement of charges which alleged that he was guilty of professional misconduct arising from the foregoing incident. Specifically, charge one alleged that respondent engaged in illegal conduct that adversely reflects on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer, in violation of DR 1-102(A)(3), when he intentionally caused physical injury to the complainant. Charges two and three alleged that respondent engaged in other conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer, in violation of DR 1-102(A)(7), when he assaulted the complainant, and destroyed her watch and purse. By his answer, respondent denied the charges, but admitted some of the factual allegations. Respondent thereafter stipulated to the relevant facts set forth in the statement of charges and further admitted that he engaged in illegal conduct which adversely reflected on his honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer (DR 1-102[A]), as alleged under charge one.
A hearing was thereafter conducted before a Referee. Respondent testified on his own behalf, taking full responsibility for his actions and admitting that he "always had a temper," but that he began therapy counseling shortly after his arrest and has continued to undergo therapy ever since. The Referee also heard testimony from respondent's treating psychotherapist who explained the violence as a result of an "intermittent explosive disorder," for which respondent is now being treated. By report and recommendation, the Referee sustained charges one and two. The Referee dismissed charge three finding that the destruction of the complainant's property "occurred at the same time as the assault and was part of the same course of conduct." With respect to the Committee's recommendation for a sanction of no less than a one-year suspension, the Referee acknowledged that respondent committed a serious act of domestic violence ...