Hello and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent New York Supreme Court opinion imposing a 2 year suspension on a lawyer for submitting “shockingly poor briefs”, neglecting client matters, and failing to supervise non-lawyer employees. The opinion is Matter of Sobolevsky, 2012 NY Slip Op 02959 (April 19, 2012).
A federal grievance committee investigated the immigration lawyer and the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the lawyer imposed a 2 year suspension in July 2011.
The New York Supreme Court opinion imposed a reciprocal 2 year suspension and summarized the federal grievance committee’s conclusions that the lawyer had submitted deficient briefs in seven immigration matters, failed to comply with numerous scheduling orders, including failing to submit briefs in support of immigration petitions, and filed with the Second Circuit petitions that involved immigration proceedings which were in other circuits.
According to the federal grievance committee’s report, the lawyer submitted briefs of “shockingly poor quality” and the deficiencies included incorrect clients’ names, the inclusion of irrelevant boilerplate language, and references to evidence that had not been submitted. The federal committee also found that most of the cause of the lawyer’s filing of petitions in the wrong circuit resulted from a failure to read the records and, “in any event, showed a lack of respect for and lack of candor toward the court.”
The lawyer blamed his problems on various factors, including the onset of glaucoma and disruptions caused by a law office move. He also said he was handling a large number of immigration petitions which arose from family planning laws in China. The lawyer also claimed that a paralegal did some of the deficient work, which the NY opinion found was an admission that he had “aided the unauthorized practice of law in violation of DR 3-101(A) and that he had failed to supervise his non-lawyer staff in violation of NY Disciplinary Rule 104(C) and (D).” As a side note, I am not sure how the paralegal’s deficient work would constitute “aiding the unauthorized practice of law” if the lawyer reviewed and signed the briefs; however, this opinion made that conclusion.
Bottom line: According to the opinion, this lawyer’s practice apparently got out of control (or he seriously neglected it) and he then made excuses for his subsequent disciplinary rule violations. The result was a 2 year suspension from practice in both New York and in the federal court.
Be careful out there!
As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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