In the Matter of Claude Castro, an attorney and counselor-at-law: Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, Claude Castro, Respondent.
proceedings instituted by the Attorney Grievance Committee
for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Claude Castro,
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 February 18, 1976.
Dopico, Chief Attorney, Attorney Grievance Committee, New
York (Yvette A. Rosario, of counsel), for petitioner.
Michael A. Gentile, for respondent.
W. Sweeny, Jr., Justice Presiding, Rosalyn H. Richter,
Richard T. Andrias, Karla Moskowitz, Ellen Gesmer, Justices.
Claude Castro was admitted to the practice of law in the
State of New York by the Third Judicial Department on
February 18, 1976. At all times relevant to this proceeding,
respondent maintained an office for the practice of law
within the First Judicial Department.
Attorney Grievance Committee now moves for an order, pursuant
to the Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters (22 NYCRR)
§ 1240.9(a)(1) and (5), immediately suspending
respondent from the practice of law until further order of
this Court based upon his failure to cooperate with the
Committee's investigation of a complaint filed against
him and uncontroverted evidence of professional misconduct.
Respondent has been duly served with the motion, which he has
complaint, filed in 2014, alleges that in 2010 the client
gave respondent the sum of $93, 040 to hold in escrow,
representing withheld rent in a landlord-tenant dispute, and
that respondent failed to return any portion of the funds
despite repeated requests. In his answer, respondent alleged
that between April and June 2010, he disbursed $34, 890 of
the funds to the landlord to pay rent, as directed by the
court, and that he remitted the balance to the client in
December 2014. In reply, the client questioned whether
respondent held the escrow funds intact at all times, as well
as respondent's proffered explanation that the delay in
returning the balance was due to his inability to access his
prior firm's escrow account.
obtaining respondent's IOLA records from his bank for the
period of February 2010 though February 2015, the Committee,
by letter dated June 21, 2016, requested that respondent
complete a spreadsheet, prepared by its investigative
accountant, by identifying the client matter for each
transaction. The Committee asked that respondent return the
completed spreadsheet by July 8, 2016, together with his
ledger for the IOLA account.
June 2016 and February 2017, respondent was granted eight
extensions to submit the requested information. In response
to his final extension request, purportedly to allow his
counsel to review his response, the Committee gave respondent
until February 8, 2017 to produce the requested information.
Respondent failed to comply.
April 3, 2017, the Committee served respondent with a
judicial subpoena directing him to appear for an examination
under oath on April 20, and to produce his file. Respondent
appeared that day and requested an adjournment. The Committee
agreed and adjourned the deposition to May 18, 2017,
confirming the adjournment in a letter dated April 25, 2017
in which the Committee again requested that respondent
complete the spreadsheet and produce his ledger. By letter
dated May 17, 2017, respondent requested that his deposition
be adjourned because he had "arranged to retain
counsel" and would not be available until between July
15 and July 30, 2017. The Committee agreed to an adjournment
until June 19, and requested that respondent have his counsel
contact the Committee. By letter dated June 16, 2017,
respondent requested an adjournment until July 2017 to
accomodate his intended counsel's schedule. By letter
dated June 22, 2017, the Committee denied the request.
contends that these circumstances do not warrant his interim
suspension because he consistently communicated with
Committee during an 11 month period, he is willing to
testify, and his alleged failure to cooperate does not
involve any default explicitly enumerated at 22 NYCRR
1240.9(a)(1) and the Committee does not seek his interim
suspesion under 22 NYCRR 1240.9(a)(3) based on his
"failure to comply with a lawful demand of the Court or
a Committee in an investigation or proceeding."
Respondent further asserts that any missteps with respect to
his IOLA account were neither venal nor fraudulent and his
alleged misconduct does not rise to the level for which
interim suspensions have been given in other cases, and that
he has practiced law for 40 years without incident. However,
the basis for the Committee's application is evident from
the moving papers and respondent's arguments are
unavailing on the record before us.
Court is empowered to order an interim suspension if it finds
that "respondent has engaged in conduct immediately
threatening the public interest. Such a finding may be based
upon... respondent's failure to comply with a lawful
demand of the Court or a Committee in an investigation or
proceeding under the[ ] Rules... or... other uncontroverted
evidence of professional misconduct" (22 NYCRR
1240.9[a],  and ).
Committee has presented clear and uncontested evidence that
respondent has engaged in conduct that immediately threatens
the public interest, warranting his suspension.
Respondent's purported efforts at cooperation with the
Committee's investigation are inadequate and have delayed
the resolution of the complaint against him on its merits.
The record establishes, inter alia, that for approximately
one year, despite having been granted eight extensions to
complete the Committee's spreadsheet and two adjournments
for his deposition, respondent has failed to comply with the
requests for the information related to his IOLA account and
ledger, both of which he is obligated to maintain pursuant to