Clients rely on the honesty, integrity and knowledge of their attorneys during some of the darkest and most stressful times of their lives. The right lawyer on the case can bring peace of mind to someone who is struggling with a legal issue and has no idea how to proceed on his or her own. Nevertheless, there are times when an attorney, in New York or elsewhere, will act unethically or even illegally. This is legal malpractice, and it can jeopardize the outcome of a client's case.
An attorney in another state is facing serious repercussions, including legal charges, after being accused of forging the signature of a judge on one legal document and falsifying emails regarding an expungement report to another client. The attorney allegedly sent the first client a copy of her divorce degree with a judge's signature. When the client contacted the court for answers to questions about her divorce settlement, no record of the divorce was on file, and the judge did not recognize the signature as her own.
The second client had been seeking a criminal expungement before he died, and his widow contacted the deputy prosecutor for copies of the expungement records. Apparently, almost two years earlier, after learning she would have to contact the county clerk to obtain the criminal records for her client, the attorney allegedly sent emails to the wife falsely claiming to be from the deputy prosecutor. The emails wrongly assured the woman the convictions were no longer on her husband's record.
The attorney now stands accused of two counts of felony counterfeiting. The disciplinary commission for attorneys in her state formally suspended her license to practice when she refused to cooperate with their investigation. Meanwhile, those clients who trusted in her may have many questions about their cases. Similarly, New York clients of attorneys who breach their ethical duties have the right to seek information about the potential for filing a legal malpractice complaint in civil court.