In the Matter of Jeffrey L. Lessoff, (admitted as Jeffrey Lewis Lessoff), a suspended attorney: Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, Jeffrey L. Lessoff, Respondent.
Dopico, Chief Attorney, Attorney Grievance Committee, New
York (Norma I. Melendez, of counsel), for petitioner.
Respondent pro se.
Tom, Justice Presiding, Angela M. Mazzarelli Richard T.
Andrias Karla Moskowitz Ellen Gesmer, Justices.
Jeffrey L. Lessoff was admitted to the practice of law in the
State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on March
28, 1984, under the name Jeffrey Lewis Lessoff. At all times
relevant to this proceeding, he maintained an office for the
practice of law within the First Judicial Department.
order entered July 14, 2016, this Court immediately suspended
respondent from the practice of law based upon his failure to
cooperate with the Attorney Grievance Committee's
[*2]investigation of four complaints alleging conversion
and/or misappropriation of client settlement funds,
commingling of client and personal funds, improper cash
withdrawals from his IOLA account, and based upon
uncontroverted evidence that he misappropriated client funds
(142 A.D.3d 107');">142 A.D.3d 107 [1st Dept 2016]). In addition, this Court
appointed a receiver to inventory respondent's files and
to take such action as necessary to protect the interests of
respondent and his clients.
28, 2016, in Supreme Court, New York County, respondent
pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the second degree (two
counts) in violation of Penal Law § 155.40(1), a class C
felony, and grand larceny in the third degree (11 counts) in
violation of Penal Law § 155.35, a class D felony, in
full satisfaction of an indictment and a superior court
information, based upon his admission that from in or about
August 2012 through November 2015, he stole settlement funds
from 13 clients totaling $743, 327.04. The plea agreement
respondent entered into lists the names and amounts he
converted from each client.
September 9, 2016, respondent was sentenced to an
indeterminate term of 3 to 9 years in prison on the C
felonies and 1 to 3 years on the D felonies, to run
Committee now seeks an order, pursuant to Judiciary Law
§ 90(4)(b), striking respondent's name from the roll
of attorneys on the ground that he was automatically
disbarred as a result of his conviction of a New York State
felony (Matter of Bernstein, 78 A.D.3d 94');">78 A.D.3d 94 [1st Dept 2010];
Matter of Cherry, 51 A.D.3d 119');">51 A.D.3d 119 [1st Dept 2008]).
pro se, who is currently incarcerated, cross- moves for an
order permitting him to resign from the practice of law
pursuant to former Rules of the Appellate Division, First
Department (22 NYCRR), 603.11. In November 2015, in response
to the Committee's request that he answer one of the
complaints against him, he attempted to resign from the bar.
However, due to respondent's failure to admit any
wrongdoing, his resignation was rejected by the Committee.
Then, in August 2016, following his guilty plea, respondent
filed a motion with this Court seeking to resign. The
Committee cross-moved, seeking the appointment of a receiver
(which this Court had already ordered sua sponte, two days
before the cross motion was filed) and argued that
respondent's affidavit of resignation should be rejected
because he failed to set forth the specific allegations of
misappropriation as required under former Rule 603.11.
order entered October 4, 2016, this Court, inter alia, denied
respondent's motion to resign.
support of his current motion to resign, respondent argues,
inter alia, that it would be "punitive" if he was
not permitted to resign, that if the Court was not inclined
to grant his request then it makes 603.11 a nullity, and that
he was a good lawyer for 28 years and only in the last few
years did he become addicted to Oxycotin and then heroin. On
that last point, respondent states that he believes his
addiction "was a suicidal attempt to end my life, "
that his life, health, reputation and family life have all
been destroyed and he has been punished due to his addiction,
and asks this Court to order him to CASAT, a drug rehab
program, even though he has been clean and sober for more
than one year.
Committee opposes the cross motion noting, inter alia, that
respondent renews his application to resign without asserting
any newly discovered facts or law as required under CPLR
2221(e) and that by virtue of respondent's conviction of
a felony, he ceased to be an attorney at the time he entered
his guilty plea on July 28, 2016 (see Matter of
Lurie, 207 A.D.2d 48');">207 A.D.2d 48 [1st Dept 1995]).
Committee correctly states that respondent's conviction
of New York felonies are a basis for automatic disbarment
pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4). Thus,
respondent's conviction of the felonies of grand larceny
in the second and third degree constitutes grounds for
automatic disbarment and his name should be stricken from the
rolls, effective the date of his guilty plea (Matter of
Todorovich,144 A.D.3d 1');">144 A.D.3d 1 [1st Dept 2016]; Matter of
Ioannou,116 A.D.3d 178');">116 A.D.3d 178 [1st Dept ...