New York lawyer receives four month suspension for “excessively aggressive” and threatening conduct

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

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Joseph Corsmeierabout.me/corsmeierethicsblogs
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About jcorsmeier

Joseph A. Corsmeier is an “AV” rated attorney practicing in Clearwater, Florida. He concentrates his practice primarily in the areas of defense of attorney disciplinary matters before The Florida Bar, attorney admission matters before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and professional license and disciplinary matters before the Boards of the State of Florida. He provides expert analysis and opinion on conflict of interest and other attorney disqualification and legal malpractice issues and he testified as an expert in the Florida courts. He served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Sixth Judicial Circuit from 1986 to 1990 where he prosecuted felonies exclusively from June 1987, and as Bar Counsel for The Florida Bar’s Department of Lawyer Regulation from 1990 to 1998. He also practices in the areas of estate planning and Medicaid qualification, workers’ compensation, and labor law. Mr. Corsmeier is the author of numerous articles for various bar publications, has spoken at numerous local and statewide seminars on various topics, including ethics and professionalism, and was an instructor of legal ethics for paralegals at Rollins College until the Tampa campus closed. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State University and his J.D. from Mercer University. He is admitted to practice in all Florida Courts, the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the Middle District of Florida. He is a member of The Florida Bar, American Bar Association, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Bar Associations.
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