A Whole New World

A reciprocal suspension of one year, effective as of a federal court sanction, has been imposed by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.

The sanction involves

misconduct committed in connection with litigation pending before the court. Specifically, the court found that respondent, inter alia, made false statements to the court, offered incomprehensible explanations to excuse the false statements, and admitted that he belatedly created a retainer agreement and backdated it.

The story

Respondent’s misconduct arose from his actions as the plaintiff’s counsel in a lawsuit entitled New World Solutions, Inc. v NameMedia, Inc. In April 2011, respondent signed the complaint for Credit Legal Group as “Attorneys for Plaintiff.” At the time the action was commenced, respondent and David Shaun Neal were each 50% owners of New World. Mr. Neal also worked as a paralegal at respondent’s law firm, Coyne Legal Group, and its predecessor Credit Legal Group.

On December 12, 2012, respondent filed a motion to withdraw as New World’s counsel. Earlier, on February 23 and March 12, 2012, Aaron Reichel, who was of counsel to Coyne Legal Group, had entered notices of appearance as counsel for the plaintiff, New World.

In April 2013, the court scheduled a conference for May 2, 2013 to address concerns it had as to who was actually representing New World. Respondent was ordered to personally appear at the conference, but was permitted to appear by telephone when the court learned that respondent would be out of the country on that date. When pressed by the court during the conference, respondent, who appeared to be confused and unsure of many of the facts, admitted that a prior statement he had made to the effect that he was never counsel of record for the plaintiff was “inaccurate” and a mistake. Further, respondent failed to provide an adequate explanation as to the allegation in an April 23, 2013 letter he had written to the court that defense counsel had misrepresented that he was counsel of record for the plaintiff. In addition, respondent was asked to explain, among other things, his statement in his December 12, 2012 declaration in support of his motion for leave to withdraw as plaintiff’s counsel, that he had received no instruction from his “client,” a corporation which was owned, up to one week prior, 50% by him and 50% by Mr. Neal.

The court directed respondent to appear personally at the next conference on May 28, 2013, at which time, after offering several inconsistent explanations, respondent admitted that he did not have a written retainer agreement with New World at the time he commenced the action on its behalf, and that he generated a retainer agreement sometime thereafter and backdated it.

(Mike Frisch)