In the Matter of Steven C. Bartley, an attorney and counselor-at-law: Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, Steven C. Bartley, Respondent.
proceedings instituted by the Attorney Grievance Committee
for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Steven C.
Bartley, 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 February 3, 1988.
Dopico, Chief Attorney, Attorney Grievance Committee, New
York (Norma I. Melendez, of counsel), for petitioner.
W. Pagan, for respondent.
Friedman, Justice Presiding, Richard T. Andrias Paul G.
Feinman Barbara R. Kapnick Ellen Gesmer, Justices.
Steven C. Bartley was admitted to the practice of law in the
State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on
February 3, 1988. At all times relevant to this proceeding,
respondent maintained an office for the practice of law
within the First Judicial Department.
2016, the Attorney Grievance Committee (Committee) brought
charges against respondent alleging violations of New York
Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rules
1.1(a), 1.3(a), 1.3(b), 1.4(a)(3) and (4), 1.8(h)(1) and (2),
and 8.4(h), based on complaints from three clients and on
respondent's failure to pay state and federal income
taxes for five years. Respondent did not submit an answer and
admitted the material facts and charges in a pre-hearing
stipulation. After a hearing was conducted, a Referee
sustained all 11 charges and recommended that respondent be
suspended for three months.
Committee now seeks an order, pursuant to the Rules for
Attorney Disciplinary Matters (22 NYCRR) § 1240.8(b)(1),
confirming the Referee's findings of fact, conclusions of
law, and recommendation that the sanction of a three-month
suspension be imposed. Respondent has not submitted a
response. For the reasons explained below, we now confirm the
Referee's report in full, including the recommendation of
a three-month suspension.
the three disciplinary complaints filed by clients, first, in
or about 2013, a client retained respondent to represent her
after she was denied unemployment benefits. Initially,
respondent successfully overturned the denial of benefits at
a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). However,
upon the employer's appeal, the New York State
Unemployment Insurance Board reversed the ALJ's decision
after respondent failed to submit timely opposition papers.
Accordingly, the Referee correctly found that respondent
violated RPC rules 1.1(a), 1.3(a) and (b), and 1.4(a)(4) by
neglecting the client's matter, failing to act with
reasonable diligence or to provide competent representation,
and failing to promptly comply with his client's
reasonable requests for information.
in 2014, a client retained respondent to represent her in an
uncontested divorce and paid him a retainer fee of
approximately $1, 270. Respondent purchased an index number
and filed a summons with notice, but failed to take further
action on the matter or respond to the client's requests
for copies of the documents he had filed with the court.
After the client filed a complaint with the Committee,
respondent fully refunded her legal fee and explained that he
was preoccupied with other matters. The Referee correctly
found that respondent violated RPC rules 1.3(a), 1.3(b), and
1.4(a)(4) by neglecting the client's matrimonial matter,
failing to act with reasonable diligence, and failing to
promptly comply with his client's reasonable requests for
in December 2013, respondent was retained by a client to file
a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding but failed to do so. After
the client filed a disciplinary complaint against him,
respondent submitted a letter to the Committee stating that
he and the client had settled their dispute, along with a
document entitled "Attorney Release from Liability,
" signed by the client, in which, in exchange for a full
refund of $750, she withdrew her disciplinary complaint and
released him from any legal malpractice claim. Respondent
conceded that he failed to advise the client to consult with
independent counsel before signing the release. Although the
Referee did not find that respondent neglected the
client's matter, because the client did not provide the
required documentation to file for bankruptcy relief, the
Referee correctly found that respondent violated RPC rules
1.4(a)(3) and 1.8(h)(1) and (2) by failing to keep the client
reasonably informed about the status of her bankruptcy matter
and failing to advise her to consult with independent counsel
before she signed the release.
respondent's tax delinquency, respondent admitted at his
deposition that he had neither filed personal income tax
returns nor paid income taxes for the 2011 through 2015 tax
years. Respondent averred that he currently owed New York
State approximately $3, 000 in back taxes and could not
recall the amount of his federal tax debt. Accordingly, the
Referee correctly found that respondent's failure to file
personal income tax returns and pay taxes for five years
adversely reflected on his fitness as a lawyer, in violation
of RPC rule 8.4(h).
mitigation, respondent introduced 11 character letters,
apologized for his misconduct, asserted that much of his law
practice is devoted to pro bono work, and attributed his
misconduct to delayed payment of what were very modest legal
fees, procrastination on his part, and the demands of
maintaining a solo practice.
in reply, the Committee asserts that respondent was
previously admonished on two occasions, first in 1994 for
neglecting a collection matter, and again in 2000, for
neglecting a Family ...