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In re Joffe

Supreme Court of New York, First Department

January 4, 2018

In the Matter of Michael Joffe, an attorney and counselor-at-law: Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, Michael Joffe, Respondent.

         Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Michael Joffe, 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 on April 13, 1994.

          Jorge Dopico, Chief Attorney, Attorney Grievance Committee, New York (Kevin M. Doyle, of counsel), for petitioner.

          Gregg D. Weinstock, Esq. for respondent.

          Judith J. Gische, Justice Presiding, Richard T. Andrias, Cynthia S. Kern, Jeffery K. Oing, Anil C. Singh, Justices.

          PER CURIAM.

         Respondent Michael Joffe was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on April 13, 1994. At all times relevant to this proceeding, respondent maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Judicial Department.

         In 2016, the Attorney Grievance Committee (Committee) brought 10 charges against respondent alleging violations of New York Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rules 1.1(a) (failure to provide competent representation), 1.3(a) (failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness), 1.3(b) (neglect), 1.16(e) (failure to take reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable prejudice to client upon termination of representation), 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation), 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice), and 8.4(h) (other conduct adversely reflecting on fitness as a lawyer).

         The charges stemmed from respondent's neglect of two immigration matters, and his false statements and submission of forged documents to the Committee during its investigation.

         In his answer respondent admitted the material facts alleged by the Committee, but neither admitted nor denied the charges and "defer[red] to the Court to reach legal conclusions regarding the [charges]."

         A referee held a hearing on the charges at which the Committee called respondent's client, A.E., as a witness, and introduced evidence relating to respondent's representation of another client, A.A. Respondent testified on his own behalf.

         In May 2009, respondent represented A.E., in her application for removal of the conditional basis for her "Green Card" and to obtain permanent resident status. A.E.'s conditional permanent resident status was to expire on September 7, 2009, and in fact did expire because respondent failed to timely file an I-751 application. As a result, in October 2009, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) informed A.E. that her Green Card had been canceled, and, thus, she became subject to deportation.

         A.E. retained new counsel, G.S., who filed an I-751 application on her behalf. However, it was rejected because respondent had belatedly made such a filing on November 2, 2009 upon learning that A.E.'s Green Card had been canceled. In November 2009 and December 2010, G.S. requested that respondent forward A.E.'s file to him, but respondent did not turn over the file. G.S. eventually obtained A.E.'s file from the Office of the Immigration Court.

         In March 2011, A.E. filed a complaint against respondent. Respondent submitted an answer in which he falsely stated that he had filed a timely I-751 application in June 2009, but later found out it was rejected because an incorrect filing fee was sent. Respondent adhered to these false statements when he appeared before the Committee for an examination under oath, and in an amended answer he submitted shortly thereafter. At a subsequent deposition and at the hearing, respondent admitted that he gave inaccurate information to the Committee, but denied that his statements were intentionally false and attributed them to mistaken recollection and incorrect assumptions on his part.

         Respondent offered three excuses for his failure to turn over A.E.'s file to her new counsel: he claimed that the file was too cumbersome to mail; the mail could not be trusted to deliver it; and finally he admitted that he did not send the file because it was easier to have it picked up so that he did not have to go out of his way to the post office. Respondent ...


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