New York Disbars Attorney For Sexting With Client

The attorney was disbarred after an exchange of text messages with a client. The opinion notes the following:

“Respondent was admitted to the practice of law by this Court on June 24, 1993, and he formerly maintained an office in Auburn. In August 2020, the Grievance Committee filed a petition asserting against respondent a single charge of professional misconduct, which alleges that he engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer by sending to a client via text message four unsolicited images of his genitalia. The Grievance Committee simultaneously filed a motion for an order suspending respondent from the practice of law on an interim basis on the ground that he had failed to cooperate in a grievance investigation concerning five additional client complaints. Respondent thereafter failed to appear before this Court or to file papers in response to that motion and, by order entered September 16, 2020, the Court suspended respondent from the practice of law on an interim basis effective immediately and until further order of the Court (Matter of Moody, 187 AD3d 1603 [4th Dept 2020]). Respondent remains suspended pursuant to that order. In January 2021, the Grievance Committee filed a second petition asserting against respondent four charges of professional misconduct, including neglecting client matters, failing to refund unearned legal fees, failing to cooperate in the grievance investigation, and failing to comply with attorney registration requirements.
In June 2021, the Grievance Committee filed a motion for an order, pursuant to 22 NYCRR 1240.8 (a) (6), finding respondent in default and deeming admitted the allegations of both petitions on the ground that, although respondent was personally served with the petitions in August 2020 and January 2021, respectively, he failed to file an answer within 20 days after he was served as required under the rules of this Court (see 22 NYCRR 1020.8 [b]). The Grievance Committee has filed proof that respondent was personally served with the motion for default in May 2021. Respondent thereafter failed to file papers in response to the motion on or before the deadline imposed by the Court. Consequently, we grant the motion of the Grievance Committee, find respondent in default on the petitions, and deem admitted the allegations therein.

With respect to the sole charge of the petition filed in August 2020, respondent admits that, in late 2018, he was retained to represent a client in a criminal matter. Respondent admits that, on or about April 20, 2019, while the criminal matter was pending, he engaged in a series of text messages with the client whereby respondent sent to the client four unsolicited images of his genitalia. Respondent admits that, after the client filed a grievance complaint, respondent asserted during the investigation that he mistakenly believed he had been exchanging text messages with a friend or acquaintance who lives in Florida. Respondent admits, however, that the series of text messages between respondent and the client contain numerous references to the personal circumstances of the client, without any indication that respondent believed he was corresponding with a person other than the client.”

Comment: The sexting led to a finding that the lawyer had violated Rule 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) and (h) (conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer). There were also charges that the lawyer had neglected certain client matters.

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