In the Matter of Alexander Perchekly, an attorney and counselor-at-law: Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, Alexander Perchekly, Respondent.
proceedings instituted by the Attorney Grievance Committee
for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Alexander
Perchekly, 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 27, 1999.
Dopico, Chief Attorney, Attorney Grievance Committee, New
York (Sherine F. Cummings, of counsel), for petitioner.
Respondent pro se.
Friedman, Justice Presiding, Dianne T. Renwick David B. Saxe
Judith J. Gische Marcy L. Kahn, Justices.
Alexander Perchekly was admitted to the practice of law in
the State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on
January 27, 1999. At all times relevant herein, respondent
maintained an office for the practice of law within the First
Attorney Grievance Committee now moves for an order, pursuant
to the Rules for Attorney Discipline Matters (22 NYCRR)
§ 1240.9(a)(2) and (5)), immediately suspending
respondent from the practice of law until further order of
this Court based upon his admission under oath that he
committed acts of professional misconduct, including
conversion and misappropriation of client funds, and upon
other uncontroverted evidence of misconduct regarding bank
records. The Committee served respondent, pro se, with its
motion by certified mail return receipt requested on consent.
A signed return receipt with respondent's initials was
returned to the Committee, but respondent has not submitted a
reasons set forth below, we now grant the Committee's
motion and suspend respondent from the practice of law,
effective immediately, until such time as the disciplinary
matters before the Committee have been concluded, and until
further order of this Court.
August 2015, the Committee received a complaint from
respondent's client in which she alleged that, inter
alia, in 2009, she retained respondent to represent her in a
personal injury action. Respondent settled that action in
March 2014 for $24, 000. While respondent promptly took his
legal fee of $8, 000, he did not remit the client's net
share of the settlement ($16, 000) until one year later, in
March 2015, after the client hired another attorney to
investigate. The client further alleged that the defendant
may have erroneously overpaid respondent an additional $16,
January 2016, respondent answered the initial complaint
asserting several defenses including that, he had settled the
personal injury case with his former client's
authorization; the defendant remitted the settlement funds in
separate payments, the last of which he did not receive until
the summer of 2014; he had not promptly remitted his
client's share of the settlement because he had been
preoccupied with his transition from private practice to an
in-house counsel position; he remitted his former
client's settlement funds once her new attorney contacted
him; and he returned the overpayment made on behalf of the
6, 2016, the Committee requested that respondent produce his
client's file and specified escrow account records -
which he is required to maintain pursuant to New York Rules
of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rule 1.15(d)(1).
Thereafter, by letter dated May 20, 2016, respondent
explained that a fire had destroyed his law office along with
the requested documents; he promised to provide the Committee
with a copy of the fire marshal's report, but then failed
to do so.
Committee obtained respondent's various records from his
bank, including his trust account records. Those records
showed that between April and September 2014, respondent
deposited a total of $40, 000 in settlement funds that he had
received on behalf of the client into the trust account.
Respondent made deposits on April 18 and June 6, 2014 each in
the amount of $8, 000 and two deposits on June 30, 2014 into
his trust account for a total of $32, 000. On September 24,
2014, respondent deposited another $8, 000 bringing the trust
account balance up to $40, 000. Thus, the additional $16, 000
represented the overpayment on behalf of the defendant. As of
June 30, 2014, respondent had received the entire $24, 000
settlement to which his former client was entitled, but he
did not immediately disburse these funds to his former
client. As of September 24, 2014, he had also received the
$16, 000 overpayment, but he did not immediately return this
overpayment made on the defendant's behalf either.
June 30, 2014 until March 16, 2015, when the client finally
received her net share of the settlement, respondent should
have maintained a minimum balance of $16, 000 in his trust
account. However, starting on or about August 5, 2014,
respondent's trust account balance began to repeatedly
fall below $16, 000. By December 8, 2014, the balance had
fallen to only $252.34. The records also demonstrated that
the $16, 000 overpayment was deposited into respondent's
trust account in September 2014, after which the balance in
the trust account repeatedly fell. In September 2015
respondent finally issued a check for $16, 000, returning the
overpayment, drawn against his operating account.
bank records show that respondent invaded his client's
funds during this time period by repeatedly transferring
funds from this trust account to his other business and
escrow accounts, and issuing checks unrelated to the
client's matter. Likewise, respondent improperly used
funds rendered on behalf of the defendant by these same
actions. Respondent then replenished his trust account by,
among other means, depositing other clients' settlement
monies into the account and making transfers from his
business accounts and potentially his own personal account
. Commingling of business and client
funds is prohibited under rule 1.15(a)of the Rules of
Professional Conduct. In addition, on February 4, 2015,
respondent transferred $16, 008 from another escrow account
to his trust account, immediately prior to which it held only
$918.34. The date of this transfer coincided with the date of
the first settlement check he issued to his client (which she
rejected because of the "Full and Final Settlement"
language). Earlier, on March 24, 2014, respondent made a $7,
000 cash withdrawal from his trust account. Cash withdrawals
are prohibited by rule 1.15(e), which requires that all
special account withdrawals be made to named payees.
October 13, 2016, respondent, pro se, appeared before the
Committee for an examination under oath at which time he
admitted he had misappropriated his former client's funds
and did not challenge the bank records. At first, respondent
testified that there had been insufficient funds in his
escrow account because he had made accounting errors in
transferring funds between his accounts. Respondent also
testified that ...