Is a New York criminal defense lawyer required to inform a client that he has been suspended from practicing law by another jurisdiction and faces inevitable reciprocal discipline in New York?
A team of lawyers at CRKL recently argued in briefs to the New York Court of Appeals that such a disclosure is indeed required so that the defendant can make an informed decision regarding his right to counsel of his choice. The lawyer in question was suspended by the Second Circuit ten weeks before the commencement of the defendant’s trial in New York Supreme Court. His eventual suspension by the First Department occurred after the defendant’s trial but was made retroactive to a date before the defendant’s trial. CRKL argued that the defendant was therefore without counsel at his trial within the meaning of the 6th Amendment.
At oral argument before the Court of Appeals, CRKL partner Wayne Gosnell urged the Court to overturn the criminal conviction of the Firm’s client when trial counsel, Andres Aranda, hid from his client the fact that he had been suspended from practicing law by the Second Circuit because of a pattern of serious misconduct which left that court with “little assurance that he can conform his conduct to expected professional norms.”
Gosnell argued that, because the defendant was unaware of his lawyer’s suspension, his right to make an informed decision concerning his representation at trial on serious felony charges was violated. Gosnell also argued that the defendant’s right to counsel was violated because the First Department later imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended Aranda from practicing law in New York retroactive to the date of his Second Circuit suspension Gosnell maintained that, at the time of trial, the defendant was not represented by someone properly licensed to practice law in New York or anywhere else, and was thus without counsel at all.