Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent New York Appellate Court opinion suspending a lawyer for 4 months for engaging in aggressive, threatening, and bizarre conduct. The case is Matter of Bailey, 2019 NY Slip Op 02487 (April 2, 2019). The disciplinary opinion is here: http://nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_02487.htm#2FN
The opinion states that the lawyer engaged in inappropriate conduct several times in 2016. In one instance, the lawyer barged into an arbitration hearing at his law firm, started taking pictures with his telephone, and said: “This will be in the newspaper when I put this in there after we kick your asses.”
In a second matter, the lawyer threatened the resident of a building owned by a law firm client after that individual had alleged that the owner was overcharging tenants in an online post. The lawyer demanded that the individual take down the post because it was defamatory and, when this did not occur, the lawyer sent a text to the individual stating that he would use “all means necessary” to protect his client.
The lawyer later called the individual, who recorded the conversation, and said that the resident should kill himself because he was worthless and that he would have him arrested. The lawyer also said: “(y)ou have no idea what you stepped into . . . Welcome to my world. Now you’re my bitch . . . you’re gonna be paying for this heavily for the rest of your life.”
The Attorney Grievance Committee (AGC) held a hearing on the matter and found that the lawyer’s conduct violated multiple New York disciplinary rules, including threatening criminal charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter and conduct that adversely reflects on counsel’s fitness as a lawyer, and recommended that the lawyer be suspended for three months.
A referee was appointed, who found, inter alia, that the lawyer “engaged in excessively aggressive behavior while representing a client. . . . (,) failed to conduct himself within the bounds of propriety, and . . . violated one or another Rule.’ The Referee found that respondent had never apologized to the arbitrator, the witness whose testimony respondent interrupted, or to Mr. Dawson and “refuse(d) to take full responsibility for his actions, which would include admitting he knew that he was interrupting an arbitration, properly apologizing, and recognizing that his aggressive litigation tactics must be controlled.” The referee recommended that the lawyer be suspended for 3 months.
The opinion rejected the lawyer’s argument for a public censure because he failed to apologize for his actions and he had been admonished in 2011 and 2014 for aggressive behavior and failing “to conduct himself within the bounds of propriety.” The opinion also rejected the AGC and referee’s recommendation of a 3 month suspension and imposed a 4 month suspension “until further order of the Court” and required the lawyer to “engage in counseling for a period of up to one year, as determined and monitored by the New York City Bar Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program.”
Bottom line: this lawyer engaged in in bizarre and very aggressive conduct, including stating to an individual (on a recorded line): “Now you’re my bitch … you’re gonna be paying for this heavily for the rest of your life.” The suspended the lawyer for 4 months and required that the lawyer participate in counseling supervised the Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program for 1 year.
Be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this Ethics Alert is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
29605 U.S. Highway 19 N. Suite 150
Clearwater, Florida 33761
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670