In a recent opinion entitled Matter of Gold; Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District, 2012 Slip Op 61346 (U) (2d Dep’t 1/17/12) the court found prima facie that defendant attorney Allen Gold was “guilty of professional misconduct immediately threatening the public interest based upon his failure to cooperate with the lawful demands of the Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District … with respect to its investigation of one complaint of professional misconduct.”
So what caused the court to find that Attorney Gold prima facie committed professional misconduct? As the facts reveal, the case presents one of the most outrageous examples of attorney misconduct seen in recent history.
Attorney Gold represented Goldstein in an action against the Massachusetts Mutual Insurance Company in which Goldstein sought a declaratory judgment declaring that certain requirements in his disability policy be waived. The court dismissed the action. Thereafter, Goldstein started another action against the same insurance company alleging the same causes of action and seeking the same relief as the previous action. The court once again dismissed the action.
For five years, between the dismissal of the first action and the commencement of the second dismissed action, Attorney Gold allowed his client to believe that he had started a new action on his behalf when in fact no such action was ever commenced. When the client asked the attorney about the fictional lawsuit, the attorney handed him copies of purported pleadings in the matter. These papers were never filed with the court. Upon subsequent requests from the client for information regarding the lawsuit, the attorney sent him copies of a purported notice of deposition and a verified answer submitted by an attorney on behalf of the insurance company. Neither the answer nor the notice of deposition had in fact been prepared by the attorney for the insurance company.
Once Attorney Gold’s deceitful conduct came to light, Goldstein initiated an action against him in the Eastern District of New York alleging that the attorney had engaged in fraud and legal malpractice. The attorney consented to the entry of a judgment against him for $250,000. As if the case were not bizarre enough, matters took an even wackier turn.
The Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District of New York subsequently sent a letter to the business address listed for the attorney with New York’s Office of Court Administration, asking the attorney to submit a written answer to Goldstein’s complaint. The attorney subsequently submitted answering papers. One part of the answering papers contained one address for the attorney and another portion of the answering papers contained an entirely different address for the attorney. Neither of these two addresses was the address listed for the attorney with the Office of Court Administration.
The Grievance Committee thereafter asked the attorney to provide additional information regarding Goldstein’s complaint. The Committee never received a response. The Grievance Committee subsequently sent the attorney several letters requesting additional information. The letters were not returned and went unclaimed, and the attorney never responded to these subsequent requests for information.
The Grievance Committee sent four further letters to the respondent all asking the respondent to provide additional information regarding the Goldstein complaint. The Committee advised the respondent that, should he continue to fail to cooperate in this investigation, the Grievance Committee would seek intervention from the Second Department. The letters were not claimed and they were not returned to the Grievance Committee.
The Grievance Committee subsequently discovered that later records of the Office of Court Administration reflected that the respondent’s business address was, once again, completely different. Accordingly, the Grievance Committee sent two letters to the respondent at that address once again asking for the additional information. In the letters, the Committee advised the respondent that his continued failure to cooperate with the investigation would result in the Committee seeking intervention from the Second Department. Both letters were returned.
Subsequently the Grievance Committee sent six letters to the respondent to each of the business addresses listed for him. The letters reiterated the Committee’s request for the additional information and once again warned the respondent that should he continue to fail to cooperate in this investigation, the Grievance Committee would seek intervention by the Second Department, including his immediate suspension from the practice of law. The letters were either returned or unclaimed.
The respondent neither opposed the Grievance Committee’s motion nor submitted any response to it. The court consequently, and not surprisingly, suspended the attorney from the practice of law pursuant to 22 NYCRR 691.4(l)(1)(i), and it authorized the Grievance Committee to prosecute a disciplinary proceeding against the attorney.