In the Matter of Youras Ziankovich, (admitted as Youry Ziankovich), an attorney and counselor-at-law: Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, Youras Ziankovich, Respondent.
proceedings instituted by the Attorney Grievance Committee
for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Youras
Ziankovich, 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 26, 2014.
Dopico, Chief Attorney, Attorney Grievance Committee, New
York (Denise M. Szekely, of counsel), for petitioner.
Judith J. Gische, Justice Presiding, Angela M. Mazzarelli
Troy K. Webber Cynthia S. Kern Peter H. Moulton, Justices.
Youras Ziankovich was admitted to the practice of law in the
State of New York by the Second Judicial Department on
February 26, 2014, under the name Youry Ziankovich. At all
times relevant to this proceeding, respondent maintained a
registered address within the First Judicial Department. This
Court retains continuing jurisdiction pursuant to the Rules
for Attorney Disciplinary Matters 22 (NYCRR) §
Attorney Grievance Committee (Committee) seeks an order,
pursuant to the Rules of Professional Misconduct (22 NYCRR)
§ 1240.13 and the doctrine of reciprocal discipline,
finding that the conduct underlying respondent's
discipline in Colorado would constitute misconduct in New
York; directing him to demonstrate why reciprocal discipline
should not be imposed for the underlying misconduct; and/or
suspending him for one year, or, in the alternative, imposing
such sanction as this Court deems appropriate based on his
discipline in Colorado. Respondent, pro se, opposes, asserts
defenses to reciprocal discipline, and moves to strike the
2017, the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
(OARC) filed a complaint charging respondent with seven
disciplinary violations. While respondent is not admitted in
Colorado, under Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC)
8.5(a), the Colorado Supreme Court has disciplinary
jurisdiction over him based on his practice of immigration
law within that state.
Presiding Disciplinary Judge (PDJ) of the Colorado Supreme
Court granted the OARC partial summary judgment sustaining
six of the alleged violations, and directed a hearing be held
before a three-member Hearing Board (which included the PDJ)
for a determination as to liability on the remaining charge
and sanction. Respondent appeared pro se and testified at the
factual and judicial findings in this matter are as follows.
On June 30, 2016, Hennadiy Zhakyavichyus and Iuliia
Vyshniavska retained respondent to apply for adjustments of
their respective immigration statuses, for which they paid
him the full agreed upon fee of $6, 000 to handle both
matters, but they discharged him on August 4 and August 9,
2016, respectively, because both of them were dissatisfied
with the pace at which their matters were being handled. At
the time of his August 9 termination, respondent told
Zhakyavichyus that he had filed his citizenship application
on August 4, however, records showed that the earliest date
it could have been filed was August 9. Further, respondent,
who did not keep contemporaneous time records for his work,
billed the couple a total of over $5, 000 for their joint,
initial two-hour meeting with him. He claimed that the fee
was justified under the terms of their retainer agreements.
granted the OARC partial summary judgment finding that the
fees respondent charged violated Colorado RPC 1.5(a) (a
lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an
unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses); he
failed to deposit $5, 000 of the advance fee paid to him by
Zhakyavichyus into an attorney trust account in violation of
Colorado RPC 1.5(f) (advances of unearned fees are the
property of the client and shall be deposited in the
lawyer's trust account) and Colorado RPC 1.15(a) (a
lawyer shall hold property of clients or third persons that
is in the lawyer's possession in connection with a
representation separate from the lawyer's own property);
by including a nonrefundable "case evaluation fee"
of $1, 000 in his retainer agreements he violated Colorado
RPC 1.5(g) (nonrefundable fees and nonrefundable retainers
are prohibited [and] any agreement that purports to restrict
a client's right to terminate the representation, or that
unreasonably restricts a client's right to obtain a
refund of unearned or unreasonable fees, is prohibited); upon
termination of his services by the clients, he failed to
promptly return unearned fees and thereby failed to take
steps reasonably practicable to protect the clients'
interests in violation of Col. RPC 1.16(d); and by
misrepresenting the filing date of Zhakyavichyus's
application he engaged in dishonest conduct in violation of
Colorado RPC 8.4(c).
the Hearing Board did not sustain the charge alleging that
respondent violated Colorado RPC 1.4(b) (a lawyer shall
explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit
the client to make informed decisions regarding the
representation), finding that the OARC had not met its burden
of proof with respect to such.
Hearing Board did not find that "the substance of
Respondent's representation caused particular harm to his
clients" but, nevertheless, found that "he caused
both actual and potential injury [to them] in relation to his
improper charging of fees and his dishonesty"
(People v Ziankovich, 433 P.3d 640, 653 [Colo.
O.P.D.J. 2018]). In particular, Zhakyavichyus was harmed when
respondent failed to tell him the truth about the mailing
date of his application; Vyshniavska "saw little benefit
from the fees she paid [him]" and was disheartened about
lawyers based on the experience; and her case took longer to
resolve as a result of respondent's misconduct
(id.). Also, it concluded that he caused both
clients potential harm by not placing their fees in trust,
and his misconduct harmed the public and legal profession by
diminishing the public's trust in lawyers (id.).
Board found further that respondent acted recklessly with
regard to his dishonesty toward Zhakyavichyus but knowingly
engaged in his fee related misconduct, therefore, under
sections 4.12, 4.62, and 7.2 of the ABA Standards for
Imposing Lawyer Sanctions (ABA Standards), suspension was the
presumptive sanction. Additionally, the Board majority found
there were aggravating factors, namely, dishonest or selfish
motive, multiple offenses, bad faith obstruction of
disciplinary proceeding, refusal to acknowledge wrongful
nature of conduct, vulnerability of victim, and indifference