Sunday, August 27, 2017

Lawyer Hit With Emergency Suspension After Allegedly Swiping $57K From Dead Man's Estate, Issuing Eight Rubber Checks Written From Attorney's Trust Account, Willfully Failing To Cooperate With Bar Probe

In Goshen, New York, the Times Herald-Record reports:
  • An appellate court has suspended the law license of Goshen lawyer Ed Char, who also serves as a trustee in the Village of Goshen, while disciplinary based proceedings are underway.

    Char was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2003. According to the order filed July 18 by the Appellate Division, First Department of state Supreme Court, the interim suspension was imposed based on complaints from two clients, eight dishonored checks on a lawyer trust account for Char’s firm, and Char’s “failure to cooperate with the Committee’s investigation” of the complaints.

    The interim suspension will remain in effect until the disciplinary investigation concludes. Attorney discipline is a civil process, based on the Rules of Professional Conduct. If serious misconduct is proved, the court may ultimately censure, suspend or disbar the lawyer.
    ***
    According to the suspension order, the first complaint against Char was filed in September of 2016 with the Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, saying Char had abandoned a case. The client and her husband had hired Char in 2014, but he eventually stopped communicating with them. It was only after consulting with another lawyer that they learned he had abandoned their case, the woman told the committee.

    A second client, a lawyer’s widow who had hired Char in 2014 to settle her husband’s estate and close out the law practice, filed a complaint in November of 2016. She claimed Char had neglected the matter, failed to communicate with her, misrepresented the status of proceedings and failed to return documents and other property. According to the decision, she alleged that Char “absconded” with estate funds by “completely depleting a bank account of $57,000,” despite the account requiring both Char’s signature and the client’s to release funds.

    The Appellate Division wrote that in November and December 2016, the grievance committee got three notices from the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection saying eight checks drawn on Char’s firm’s Interest On Lawyer Account, $56,807.57, had bounced due to insufficient funds.

    Lawyers in New York must maintain an IOLA account, an interest bearing trust account, for client funds. Banks that hold IOLA accounts automatically report dishonored checks to the Lawyers’ Fund.

    The Appellate Division wrote that Char failed to respond to grievance committee requests for his response to the complaints until he was subpoenaed to appear before them in February. The decision noted that he had not yet provided the required written response or the IOLA account records.

    In New York, attorney grievance committees set up by the Appellate Division investigate potential misconduct by lawyers. When the committee finds probable cause of misconduct by a lawyer, it files a petition in the Appellate Division of Supreme Court to start formal disciplinary proceedings. The court can issue an interim suspension while the matter is pending, as it did in Char’s case, based on a finding that the lawyer “engaged in conduct immediately threatening the public interest.”

    The Appellate Division issued the interim suspension after finding that Char engaged in misconduct by willfully failing to cooperate with the investigation and by failing to answer the complaints or to provide requested financial records.

    Char’s partner, Steven Herzberg, was suspended by the Appellate Division on the same day, based on the dishonored checks and his failure to produce the IOLA account records.
For the story, see Goshen trustee’s law license suspended. ripoff reimbursement

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