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In re Groom

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

April 26, 2017

In the Matter of Diane B. Groom, admitted as Diane Barbara Groom, a suspended attorney. Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District, petitioner; Diane B. Groom, respondent. (Attorney Registration No. 2966885)

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING instituted by the Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District. The respondent was admitted to the Bar at a term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department on May 26, 1999, under the name Diane Barbara Groom. By decision and order of this Court dated November 7, 2013, the respondent's voluntary resignation was accepted and her name was removed from the roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law. By decision and order on motion of this Court dated November 24, 2014, the decision and order dated November 7, 2013, was recalled and vacated; the respondent was immediately suspended from the practice of law, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(f), as a result of her conviction of a serious crime; the Grievance Committee was authorized to institute and prosecute a disciplinary proceeding against the respondent based on a verified petition dated March 12, 2014; the issues were referred to the Honorable Charles J. Thomas, as Special Referee, to hear and report; the Grievance Committee was directed to arrange for the examination of the respondent by a qualified medical expert to determine whether she was incapacitated pursuant to former 22 NYCRR 691.13(c); and the disciplinary proceeding and the respondent's obligation to serve and file an answer were held in abeyance pending receipt of the medical expert's report and a determination as to whether the respondent was incapacitated and as to her ability to defend herself. By decision and order on motion of this Court dated July 16, 2015, inter alia, the parties were directed to proceed with the disciplinary proceeding previously held in abeyance.

          Mitchell T. Borkowsky, Hauppauge, NY (Robert H. Cabble of counsel), for petitioner.

          RANDALL T. ENG, P.J., WILLIAM F. MASTRO, REINALDO E. RIVERA, MARK C. DILLON, JEFFREY A. COHEN, JJ.

          OPINION & ORDER

          PER CURIAM

         The Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District served the respondent with a petition dated March 12, 2014. Following a prehearing conference on March 25, 2016, and a hearing held on May 3, 2016, the Special Referee sustained the charges. The Grievance Committee now moves to confirm the report of the Special Referee and to impose such discipline as the Court deems just and appropriate. Although served with a copy of the motion, the respondent has neither submitted papers in response, nor has she asked for additional time in which to do so.

         Procedural History of the Case

         1. Voluntary Resignation

         This matter commenced with the submission of an affidavit by the respondent to voluntarily resign from the Bar. By affidavit dated June 6, 2013, the respondent advised the Court that she had previously been issued a Letter of Caution dated June 29, 2012, and that there were no pending complaints of professional misconduct against her in any jurisdiction. She wished to resign due to a mental disability. Since there were no outstanding complaints pending against the respondent, by decision and order of this Court dated November 7, 2013, the respondent's resignation was accepted and her name was removed from the roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law, without prejudice to an application for reinstatement.

         2. Misdemeanor Conviction

         Unbeknownst to the Court, on April 10, 2013, the respondent pleaded guilty, in County Court, Suffolk County, to tampering with public records in the second degree, in violation of Penal Law § 175.20, a class A misdemeanor. On June 19, 2013, she was sentenced to three years' probation, with drug, alcohol, and mental health conditions, and required to pay a DNA fee in the sum of $50. The respondent allocuted at her plea that, on February 14, 2012, she removed a file from the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County, which was a public office, and subsequently destroyed the file by disposing of it in a dumpster.

         The respondent did not notify this Court of her conviction, as required pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(c).

         3. Motion to Vacate

         Upon learning of the respondent's conviction, the Grievance Committee moved to: (1) vacate the November 7, 2013, decision and order of this Court accepting the respondent's voluntary resignation; (2) immediately suspend the respondent based on her conviction of a serious crime; and (3) institute and prosecute a disciplinary proceeding against the respondent based on a petition dated March 12, 2014. The Grievance Committee claimed that the respondent had deceived the Court into accepting her voluntary resignation by failing to disclose her conviction. In opposition, the respondent moved for voluntary suspension, pursuant to former 22 NYCRR 691.13(c), and requested an examination, prior to any hearing being conducted, alleging that she was unable to defend herself. The respondent vigorously disputed the contention that in submitting her voluntary resignation, she intentionally tried to deceive the Court. The respondent claimed that she simply was unaware of her obligation to disclose her conviction.

         By decision and order on motion of this Court dated November 24, 2014, the decision and order dated November 7, 2013, was recalled and vacated; the respondent was immediately suspended from the practice of law, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(f), as a result of her conviction of a serious crime; the Grievance Committee was authorized to institute and prosecute a disciplinary proceeding against the respondent; the issues were referred to the Honorable Charles J. Thomas, as Special Referee, to hear and report; the Grievance Committee was directed to arrange for the examination of the respondent by a qualified medical expert to determine whether she was incapacitated pursuant to former 22 NYCRR 691.13(c); and the disciplinary proceeding and the respondent's ...


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