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.
Peter Tom,Justice Presiding, Richard T. Andrias James M. Catterson Karla Moskowitz Nelson S. Roman,Justices.
Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Steven A. Mundie, 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 January 31, 1996. Jorge Dopico, Chief Counsel, Departmental Disciplinary Committee, New York (Raymond Vallejo, of counsel), for petitioner. Richard M. Maltz, for respondent.
M-5706 February 17, 2012 IN THE MATTER OF STEVEN A. MUNDIE, AN ATTORNEY
Respondent Steven A. Mundie was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on January 31, 1996. At all times relevant to this proceeding, he maintained an office for the practice of law in the First Department.
The Departmental Disciplinary Committee seeks an order pursuant to 22 NYCRR 603.3, imposing reciprocal discipline on respondent based on an order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, dated June 20, 2011, publicly reprimanding him. The Committee requests that this Court impose the sanction of public censure, or whatever discipline this Court deems appropriate. Respondent consents to the imposition of reciprocal discipline, but requests that such discipline be no greater than public censure.
In March 2009, the Second Circuit issued an order referring respondent to its Committee on Admissions and Grievances (CAG) based on his alleged misconduct in connection with immigration matters. The order alleged that respondent's brief in Yi Mei Li v Mukasey, 06-3422, contained misstatements of the petitioner's name and the facts, and that extensive and significant portions of the legal argument appeared to have been copied verbatim from a brief filed by another attorney, in another case. It also noted that court records showed that out of approximately 100 petitions for review submitted by respondent between 2002 and 2008, 39 were dismissed for failure to comply with the court's scheduling orders. In another 15 matters, respondent filed briefs or stipulations withdrawing the cases only after briefing deadlines had passed and the court had issued orders to show cause why the cases should not be dismissed based on his defaults. In eight other cases, respondent submitted stipulations withdrawing petitions with prejudice after briefing deadlines had passed.
During the CAG's proceedings, respondent, represented by counsel, had the opportunity to address the matters discussed in the referral order. In his response dated July 9, 2009, respondent admitted to certain "editorial" mistakes in the Yi Mei Li brief; attributed his numerous defaults to "streamlining" procedures implemented by the Board of Immigration Appeals (which required him to file petitions for review before reviewing the administrative record), as well as the misguided belief that it was acceptable not to withdraw non-meritorious petitions (because, by so doing, deportation was stayed and his clients had additional time to pursue other areas of relief); and attributed the late post-order to show cause filings to an overwhelming case load (which he had now taken steps to reduce and more effectively manage). At a March 2010 hearing, respondent similarly testified that the majority of the defaults (which resulted in dismissals of petitions) were intentional and part of an overall, albeit misguided, strategy intended to stay deportation; and that his defaults and late filings were also attributable to difficulty in managing his caseload.
In October 2010, the CAG issued a report in which it concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that respondent had committed professional misconduct. This included that respondent's brief in Yi Mei Li v Mukasey, contained numerous defects and referenced irrelevant facts and issues as a result of respondent having incorporated portions of a brief from a different case without making the necessary changes; and that respondent's failure to comply with scheduling orders had resulted in the dismissal of 38 cases based on his default. As to aggravation, the CAG noted that respondent's failure to comply with scheduling orders was a pattern of conduct that occurred over a period of many years. As to mitigation, the CAG noted respondent's cooperation, his remorse, the specific steps he implemented to better manage his practice, his attempts to refund the legal fees paid by Yi Mei Li, a lack of selfish motive, and his record of pro bono activity. ...