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.
Decided on April 24, 2012
SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISIONFirst Judicial Department
Peter Tom,Justice Presiding, Richard T. Andrias Rolando T. Acosta Helen E. Freedman Rosalyn H. Richter,Justices.
Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department.
Respondent, Sanford Solny, was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York at a Term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the Second Judicial Department on November 17, 1982.
Respondent, Sanford Solny, was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on November 17, 1982. At all times relevant to this proceeding, respondent maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Department.
In 1982, respondent joined the law practice of his uncle, Henry Isaacson, Esq., eventually becoming a partner. In 2001, Lee Snow, Esq. drafted Isaacson's will, which named respondent and Snow as co-executors and divided the estate in equal shares among his four siblings or their surviving issue per stirpes, which would have entitled respondent to an 8⅓% share. Snow also drafted a "Durable Power of Attorney Effective at a Future Time" (the POA) which granted enumerated powers to respondent if Isaacson became incapacitated in the future, to be effective if accompanied by documentation from a physician attesting to Isaacson's incapacity. Isaacson died on March 11, 2007.
In April 2010, the Departmental Disciplinary Committee (the Committee) filed four charges against respondent. Charge 1 alleges that respondent violated DR 1-102(A)(4) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation) by intentionally misleading Snow as to the reason he needed to obtain the POA from Snow shortly before Isaacson's death. Charge 2 alleges that respondent violated DR 1-102(A)(7) (engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer) by using the POA without the requisite medical certification. Charge 3 alleges that respondent violated DR 1-102(A)(7) by misusing the POA to transfer approximately $600,000 of Isaacson's money to himself during the weeks before Isaacson's death. Charge 4 alleges that respondent committed professional misconduct by failing to maintain his attorney registration in violation of Judiciary Law § 468-a and thereby, § 8.4(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
In his answer, respondent admitted that he transferred money from Isaacson into his own control, but asserted that he believed that he was authorized to do so by the terms of the POA because Isaacson had given him permission to take the money. Respondent also asserted that the limited information he gave Snow was true, that he had no duty to fully inform Snow of his intended use of the POA, that his failure to supplement the POA with a medical certification was an oversight, and that his brief delinquency in maintaining his attorney registration should be excused.
In November 2010, a Referee, after hearing, issued his findings as to liability in which he sustained all four charges. In February, 2011, the Referee, after a sanction hearing, recommended a one-year suspension. In May 2011, a Hearing Panel issued its determination in which it affirmed the Referee's liability finding as to charge 1, 3 and 4, ...