In the Matter of Joel Zweig, an attorney and counselor-at-law: Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, Joel Zweig, (OCA Atty. Reg. No. 2425742) Respondent.
proceedings instituted by the Attorney Grievance Committee
for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Joel Zweig,
was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York at a Term of
the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the First
Judicial Department on July 1, 1991.
Dopico, Chief Attorney, Attorney Grievance Committee, New
York (Raymond Vallejo, of counsel), for petitioner.
Respondent, pro se.
John W. Sweeny, Jr., Justice Presiding, Troy K. Webber Ellen
Gesmer Anil C. Singh Peter H. Moulton, Justices.
Joel Zweig was admitted to the practice of law in the State
of New York by the First Judicial Department on July 1, 1991.
At all times relevant herein, respondent maintained his
principal place of business within the First Department.
September 19, 2017, respondent pleaded guilty, in the United
States District Court for the Northern District of
California, to obstruction of justice and perjury, under 18
USC §§ 1503 and 1623(a), respectively.
Respondent's conviction stemmed from his role in creating
and transmitting false court documents for his friend, whose
company, a pet retail store chain, had commenced a federal
breach of contract action against a pet food manufacturer. In
that action, the chain claimed to have leased a New York
store to distribute the manufacturer's products,
entitling the chain to increased contractual payments for its
created a phony 2008 New York City commercial property lease
and a phony 2011 assignment of the lease to his friend's
company, with forged signatures and notarizations, for the
purposes of showing that the company's New York store
location was opening, to support the federal damages claim.
Respondent knew that the documents he created were to be used
by his friend's company to support a $1.6 million damages
claim and he had the documents forwarded to the friend. In
2011, the manufacturer informed the federal court judge that
it believed that the lease and assignment were false. The
court then demanded sworn statements from respondent.
response, respondent submitted to the court a sworn
declaration under penalty of perjury, which included his
knowingly false statements, including a description of how he
obtained the 2008 lease and the circumstances surrounding the
creation of the lease. He also submitted a forged affidavit
purporting to be from the owner of the leased property.
December 14, 2017, respondent was sentenced to concurrent
prison terms of 56 months, plus a three-year term of
supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the
amount of $167, 713.48.
Attorney Grievance Committee (Committee) seeks an order
striking respondent's name from the roll of attorneys,
pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(4)(a) and (b), and the
Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters (22 NYCRR) §
1240.12(c)(1), on the grounds that he was convicted of
felonies which are essentially similar to New York felonies
and, therefore, automatic disbarment is appropriate.
Respondent has not submitted any opposition to the
Committee contends that "automatic" disbarment is
warranted herein because respondent's federal conviction
for obstruction of justice (18 USC § 1503) and perjury
(18 USC § 1623[a]) are felonies under federal law and,
if committed within this State, would constitute the felonies
of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree
(Penal Law § 175.35) and perjury in the first degree
(Penal Law § 210.15), respectively.
conviction of a federal felony does not trigger automatic
disbarment, no matter how serious the felony is, unless the
federal felony at issue would constitute a felony under New
York Law (Judiciary Law § 90[e]; Matter of
Rosenthal, 64 A.D.3d 16, 18 [1st Dept 2009]).
determination that a federal felony has a New York analogy,
the federal felony does not have to be a "mirror
image" of a New York felony, but must be
"essentially similar" (Matter of
Margiotta,60 N.Y.2d 147, 150 ). Thus, we must
compare the applicable federal and state felony statutes, as
well as look to our own precedent on this issue (see
Matter of Schoenecker, 107 A.D.3d 113');">107 A.D.3d 113 [1st Dept 2013]).
Essential similarity can also be demonstrated through the
respondent's admissions made under oath during his ...