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In re Melendez

Supreme Court of New York, First Department

January 22, 2013

In the Matter of William E. Melendez (admitted as William Eric Melendez), a suspended attorney: Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, William E. Melendez, Respondent.

Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, William E. Melendez, 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 January 22, 2009.

Jorge Dopico, Chief Counsel, Departmental (Naomi F. Goldstein, of counsel), for petitioner.

Respondent pro se.

Luis A. Gonzalez Presiding Justice, Rolando T. Acosta, David B. Saxe, Karla Moskowitz, Helen E. Freedman, Justices.

PER CURIAM

Respondent William E. Melendez was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the Third Judicial Department on January 22, 2009 under the name William Eric Melendez. Respondent resides in Puerto Rico, but is not admitted to practice law in Puerto Rico. At all times relevant to this proceeding, respondent maintained a registered business address within this Department. [1]

On April 10, 2012, this Court indefinitely suspended respondent, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(2-a), based upon his failure to meet his child support obligations. Pursuant to our order, respondent is to remain suspended until such time as this Court is notified by the Superior Court of Puerto Rico that he has satisfied all child support arrears.

The Departmental Disciplinary Committee now seeks an order, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(2) and 22 NYCRR 603.3, suspending respondent for two years predicated upon similar discipline imposed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.

According to the Committee, it only learned of the two-year suspension imposed by the District Court after it had commenced the previous proceeding seeking respondent's suspension based upon child support arrears. The Committee further explains that respondent appealed the July 2011 District Court order imposing his disciplinary suspension to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (which was affirmed in March 2012), and that the Committee waited for the appeal to be decided before pursuing the instant petition for reciprocal discipline. [2]

On July 21, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico issued an order suspending respondent for two years for misconduct committed before the court and in a related bankruptcy proceeding. The District Court found, among other things, that respondent withheld discovery material which created needless litigation, failed to disclose the bankruptcy proceeding to the District Court, and failed to disclose his client's standing to sue in the District Court after the commencement of the bankruptcy proceeding, in violation of Model Rules 1.1 (proscribing incompetent representation); 3.3(a)(1) (proscribing false statements of fact or law to a tribunal); 3.4(d) (requiring reasonably diligent efforts to comply with legally proper discovery requests from an opposing party); 4.1(a) and (b) (proscribing false statements of law and fact to a third person, and failure to disclose a material fact to a third person when necessary to avoid assisting a client in criminal or fraudulent activity); and 8.4(a), (c), and (d) (prohibiting conduct which: violates or attempts to violate a disciplinary rule; involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; and which is prejudicial to the administration of justice).

Respondent appealed the District Court's suspension order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which, by order entered March 14, 2012, affirmed the District Court, and also reciprocally suspended respondent before that court for two years.

While respondent has not appeared nor asserted any of the defenses of reciprocal discipline enumerated at 22 NYCRR 603.3(c) to wit: lack of notice and opportunity to be heard in the foreign jurisdiction; infirmity of proof; and the misconduct at issue in the foreign jurisdiction would not constitute misconduct in New York, no such defenses are available.

Respondent received notice of the complaint against him, testified at a hearing before the magistrate judge, submitted a response in opposition to the magistrate judge's report, and took an appeal to the First Circuit. In addition, the magistrate judge's and District Court's findings are amply supported by court records and respondent's testimony.

Furthermore, respondent was found to have violated, among others, Model Rules 1.1, 3.3(a)(1), 4.1(a) and (b), and 8.4(a), (c) and (d), each of which has a corresponding New York Rule, thereby satisfying the third prong of the reciprocal discipline test ...


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