In the Matter of Anton Antomattei, an attorney and counselor-at-law: Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, Anton Antomattei, Respondent.
Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Anton Antomattei, 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 July 7, 1980.
Jorge Dopico, Chief Counsel, Departmental Disciplinary Committee, New York (Paul L. Friman, of counsel), for petitioner.
Respondent pro se.
Leland G. DeGrasse, Justice Presiding, Helen E. Freedman, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Sallie Manzanet-Daniels, Nelson S. Román, Justices.
Respondent Anton Antomattei was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the First Judicial Department on July 7, 1980. At all times relevant to this proceeding, respondent has practiced law in the First Department. Respondent's alleged misconduct arises from two convictions for drunk driving related offenses. The Departmental Disciplinary Committee has moved, pursuant to 22 NYCRR 605.15(e), to confirm the Referee's and Hearing Panel's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and respective sanction recommendations that respondent receive a public censure on the condition that he participate in a Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP). In his response, respondent suggests private discipline and argues against ordering his participation in LAP.
On June 7, 2002, in Criminal Court, Bronx County, respondent pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired by alcohol, a violation offense, in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192(1). He was sentenced to, inter alia, a conditional discharge, ordered to attend a DWI program, and his driver's license was revoked for six months. Because this conviction was for a violation, respondent was not required by Judiciary Law § 90(4)(c) to notify the Disciplinary Committee of its existence.
On October 5, 2005, respondent pleaded guilty in North Salem Town Court, Westchester County, to driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, in violation of VTL § 1192(2). He was again sentenced to a conditional discharge, his driver's license was revoked for six months, and he was required to attend a DWI program. The Disciplinary Committee was made aware of this conviction and, on March 22, 2006, it issued a Letter of Admonition finding that respondent had engaged in misconduct which adversely reflected on his fitness as a lawyer, in violation of then DR 1-102(A)(7). As respondent's October 2005 misdemeanor conviction was addressed by the Admonition, the Committee did not include it as part of the current charges.
Approximately 2½ years later, on July 7, 2008, a member of the New York State Police observed respondent, alone, parked on the side of I-684 in Westchester County standing outside his car with the hazard lights flashing. When the trooper approached, respondent appeared intoxicated and was unable to perform field sobriety tests. Respondent was arrested and results of a Breathalyzer test were.22% of one per centum by weight of alcohol in his blood. Respondent was charged with the felony driving while intoxicated under VTL § 1193(c), based on the fact that he had been convicted of driving while intoxicated as a misdemeanor within the preceding 10 years (the 2005 conviction).
On September 8, 2009, in North Castle Town Court, Westchester County, respondent, represented by counsel, pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor (VTL § 1192), and was sentenced that same day to a one-year conditional discharge, fines and surcharges, license revocation for one year (which, as of December 2010, had not been restored), attendance at a MADD panel, and participation in a substance abuse program at Daytop Village (which he successfully completed).
In its statement of charges dated June 21, 2010, the Committee brought two disciplinary charges against respondent. Charge 1 alleged that his September 8, 2009 misdemeanor conviction for driving while intoxicated constituted illegal conduct that adversely reflected on his fitness as a lawyer, in violation of RPC 8.4(b) and former DR 1-102(A)(3); Charge 2 alleged that his June 2002 conviction for the violation of driving while ability impaired constituted conduct that adversely reflected on his fitness as a lawyer, in violation of RPC 8.4(h) and former DR 1-102(A)(7). By answer dated July 19, 2010, respondent admitted to certain allegations in the charges, including his convictions, but asserted what he considered to be five affirmative defenses, and requested that both charges be dismissed.
The Referee sustained both charges and recommended a public censure, with the requirement that respondent participate for six months in a LAP program, or an equivalent program approved by the Committee. In making this recommendation for treatment, the Referee noted that, even though respondent had successfully completed Daytop's program, he had completed drinking and driving programs following his 2002 and 2005 convictions, but continued to offend. Therefore, the Referee believed participation in a program designed specifically for lawyers would be beneficial. Regarding the Committee's position that the appropriate sanction would be a brief period of suspension, the Referee found that mitigating factors in favor of the more lenient sanction included that there were no charges concerning respondent's practice of law (Matter of Wynne, 283 A.D.2d 55 ); respondent had successfully completed his substance abuse rehabilitation at Daytop Village and had authorized disclosure of his confidential record of treatment showing his positive participation in the program; and respondent was sincere in his statements of current sobriety and determination not to abuse alcohol.
The Hearing Panel agreed with the Referee's findings of liability and recommendation of censure, conditioned on successful completion of a LAP program, noting that in previous disciplinary proceedings for non-felony alcohol-related driving convictions, with no effect on the attorney's practice or evidence of harm to clients, the sanction had been public censure (see Matter of Garbarini, 76 A.D.3d 379 ; Matter of DelCol, 23 A.D.3d 7 ; Matter of Wynne, 283 A.D.2d 55 ). One Panel member, however, "strongly" dissented, finding that a sanction of no less than a one-year suspension was warranted. The Panel did not believe that a suspension would be beneficial in addressing whatever problem respondent suffers from; in fact, in the Panel's view, a suspension could exacerbate the problem. While the Panel agreed with the Committee that respondent required further treatment, it preferred to accomplish this by way of a censure conditioned on respondent's participation in LAP. The Panel further requested that the Court advise respondent of the consequences should he fail to comply with this requirement.
In light of the similar recommendations of public censure conditioned on alcohol treatment made by the Referee and the Panel, the Committee has determined to seek confirmation of their findings and recommendations, with respondent to be censured and required to attend a LAP program for ...