452 P.3d 225 (Colo.O.P.D.J. 2019), 19PDJ025, People v. Sokolow
|Docket Nº:||Number: 19PDJ025|
|Citation:||452 P.3d 225|
|Opinion Judge:||WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE|
|Party Name:||The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Complainant, v. Anthony Litt SOKOLOW, #10312, Respondent.|
|Case Date:||September 10, 2019|
|Court:||Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Supreme Court of Colorado|
OPINION AND DECISION IMPOSING SANCTIONS UNDER C.R.C.P. 251.19(c)
WILLIAM R. LUCERO, PRESIDING DISCIPLINARY JUDGE
Anthony Litt Sokolow ("Respondent") was hired in September 2015 to represent a client with a social security disability claim. He failed to file paperwork to rush the appeal, even though the client was facing imminent eviction proceedings and may have qualified for an expedited hearing on that basis. He also failed to communicate regularly with the client, letting many months pass without responding to her numerous attempts to contact him. Respondent failed to act with reasonable diligence in pursuing the case, and failed to promptly and sufficiently communicate with her. His misconduct violated Colo. RPC 1.3 and 1.4(a) and (b), which warrants a suspension for one year and one day.
On April 5, 2019, Erin R. Kristofco of the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel ("the People") filed a citation and complaint with the Presiding Disciplinary Judge ("the Court") and sent copies via certified mail and regular mail the same day to Respondent at
his registered home and business addresses. When the due date for Respondents answer had passed, the People sent him a letter on April 26, 2019, reminding him to answer.
Respondent did not file an answer or otherwise appear in the case, and the People moved for entry of default on May 7, 2019. The Court granted the Peoples motion and issued an "Order Entering Default under C.R.C.P. 251.15(b)" on May 31, 2019. Upon the entry of default, the Court deemed all facts set forth in the complaint admitted and all rule violations established by clear and convincing evidence. The Court set a sanctions hearing for August 8, 2019.
At that sanctions hearing held under C.R.C.P. 251.15(b), Kristofco represented the People. Respondent appeared pro se. The Court admitted the Peoples exhibits 1-2 and heard testimony from Elizabeth Ternes and Respondent.
II. FACTUAL FINDINGS AND RULE VIOLATIONS
Facts and Rule Violations Established on Default
Respondent was admitted to practice law in Colorado on April 30, 1980, under attorney registration number 10312. He is thus subject to the Courts jurisdiction in this disciplinary proceeding.2
Respondent, a specialist in social security disability law, was hired by Elizabeth Ternes to represent her with a social security disability claim ("SSD claim") in September 2015. Ternes told Respondent her SSD claim was urgent, as her home was going into foreclosure due to her inability to work or pay her mortgage.
After Terness initial SSD claim was denied, Respondent filed the proper forms to appeal the SSD denial. Respondent did not apply for an expedited hearing or otherwise try to qualify Terness case as critical under the Social Security Administrations rules. Terness claim may have qualified as a critical case— and thus may have been entitled to an expedited hearing schedule— based on the imminent foreclosure of her home.
Respondent stopped communicating with Ternes in April 2016 while her SSD appeal was pending. Ternes made numerous attempts to contact Respondent by phone, email, and regular mail, but she did not receive any response from Respondent until October 2016. At that time, Ternes again told Respondent that her home would be foreclosed upon imminently unless she prevailed on her claim at the hearing and received SSD benefits to make her mortgage payments.
Respondent again failed to communicate or respond to Terness emails and phone calls between October 2016 and March 2017. Ternes terminated Respondents representation in late March 2017.
Foreclosure proceedings began on Terness house in March 2017, and she was forced to sell her home. Ternes hired a new lawyer to represent her in the SSD claims in April 2017. Her appeal of the SSD claim was ultimately successful, and she was able to obtain SSD benefits after a hearing in August 2017. Because the foreclosure process had already occurred, however, Ternes could not recover her house. And because of housing prices, Ternes had to move to Pueblo, Colorado...
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