Attorney Grievance Comm. for the First Judicial Dep't v. Willner (In re Willner)

Decision Date23 August 2022
Docket NumberMotion No. 2022-02399,Case No. 2022-02578
Citation209 A.D.3d 47,173 N.Y.S.3d 217
Parties In the MATTER OF Ross Alan WILLNER, an attorney and counselor-at law: Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department, Petitioner, v. Ross Alan Willner, (OCA Atty. Reg. No. 1946045), Respondent.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

Jorge Dopico, Chief Attorney, Attorney Grievance Committee, New York (Yvette A. Rosario, of counsel), for petitioner.

Respondent, pro se.

David Friedman, J.P., Lizbeth González, Manuel J. Mendez, Bahaati E. Pitt, John R. Higgitt, JJ.

Per Curiam

Respondent Ross Alan Willner was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the First Judicial Department on July 30, 1984. Respondent's registered business address is in Florida, but this Court retains jurisdiction over him as the admitting Department (Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters [ 22 NYCRR] § 1240.7 [a][2]).

In 2010, respondent pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Florida. On April 19, 2010, respondent was charged with DUI in Coral Springs, Florida. On May 24, 2010, he was arrested and charged again for DUI in Boca Raton, Florida.

On November 18, 2010, respondent pleaded guilty to DUI in violation of Florida Statute 316.193(1), a misdemeanor offense, for his conduct on May 24, 2010 in Boca Raton, Florida. He was sentenced to 12 months of probation, license revocation for a period of six months, attendance at AA/NA meetings (90 meetings within 90 days), 50 hours of community service, attendance at one session of the Victim Impact Panel, vehicle immobilization for 10 days, random testing and other fines and court costs.

On March 4, 2011, respondent pleaded no contest to the same misdemeanor charge of DUI for his earlier arrest on or about April 19, 2010, in Coral Springs, Florida. Respondent was adjudicated guilty by the court and sentenced to 12 months of probation, license suspension for a period of two years, DUI School, vehicle immobilization for 30 days, random breath/urinalysis testing and other fines and court costs.

Respondent did not notify the Florida Bar of either of his DUI convictions. On July 27, 2011, The Florida Bar filed a complaint against respondent alleging misconduct based on his DUI convictions. Respondent failed to provide a mandated answer to the complaint, and the Florida Bar filed a motion for a default judgment which was granted on September 8, 2011. The factual allegations against respondent were deemed admitted as a result of his default and a final sanction hearing was scheduled before a referee on December 5, 2011. Defendant appeared at the sanction hearing.

The Referee's report dated December 9, 2011, recommended that respondent be found guilty of violating the following Rules Regulating the Florida Bar: 3-4.3 (the commission by a lawyer of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice, whether the act is committed within or outside the state of Florida, and whether or not the act is a felony or misdemeanor, may constitute cause for discipline.); 3-7.2(e) (a member of the Florida Bar shall within 10 days of entry of a determination or judgment for any criminal offense, which was entered on or after August 1, 2006, notify the executive director of the Florida Bar of such determination or judgment); and 4-8.4(b) (a lawyer shall not commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects). The Referee noted that respondent stated at the hearing that he was receiving treatment for a substance abuse problem by participating in a drug program, however he presented no documentary evidence or testimony from any treating physician or therapist. The Referee recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law in Florida for a period of 91 days and, thereafter, until he provides proof of rehabilitation. Furthermore, it was noted that although respondent had no prior history, his commission of multiple offenses should be considered an aggravating factor, and since he was currently inactive the suspension should commence immediately.

On April 3, 2012, the Supreme Court of Florida approved the Referee's uncontested report and suspended respondent for 91 days, effective immediately. Respondent remains suspended from the practice of law in Florida.

On March 2, 2022, the Attorney Grievance Committee (AGC) both emailed and mailed a letter to respondent advising him that it was made aware of his Florida suspension. Respondent was asked to provide the AGC with a reason a motion should not be filed disciplining him for the underlying misconduct. The letter and email were not returned to the AGC as undeliverable, however, respondent failed to submit a response. On April 11, 2022, the AGC further informed respondent that he was delinquent in the payment of his biennial attorney registration fee for three registration cycles and that the failure to register constitutes a ground for his suspension from the practice of law. Respondent was advised that he should advise the AGC by April 22, 2022 whether he had updated his attorney registration. Respondent did not contact the Committee regarding his registration status.

The AGC now moves for an order pursuant to 22 NYCRR 1240.13, and the doctrine of reciprocal discipline, for a finding that respondent has been disciplined by a foreign jurisdiction, directing him to demonstrate why this Court should not impose discipline based on the misconduct underlying his discipline in Florida, and suspending him for a period of three months, or, in the alternative, sanctioning him as this Court deems just and proper. Respondent did not oppose the motion or otherwise appear in this proceeding.

On June 15, 2022 respondent was personally served with a copy of the AGC's motion in Florida. On June 16, 2022, the AGC served a second copy of this motion by first class mail on the pro se respondent at his registered address in Boca Raton, Florida, but he has not submitted a response and is in default.

In a proceeding seeking reciprocal discipline pursuant to 22 NYCRR 1240.13, respondent may raise the following defenses: (1) a lack of notice or opportunity to be heard in the foreign jurisdiction constituting a deprivation of due...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 cases
  • Attorney Grievance Comm. for the First Judicial Dep't v. McCrea (In re McCrea)
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • November 29, 2022
    ... ... correspondence with the Committee (see Matter of Meettook, 206 A.D.3d 9, 167 N.Y.S.3d 506 [1st Dept. 2022] ; Matter of Shotkin, 168 A.D.3d 99, 90 N.Y.S.3d 183 [1st Dept. 2019] ; Matter of Matic, 165 ... his address), which "constitutes an independent ground for his suspension" ( Matter of Willner, 209 A.D.3d 47, 50, 173 N.Y.S.3d 217 [1st Dept. 2022] ; see Judiciary Law 468a ; Matter of Chin, ... ...
  • Attorney Grievance Comm. for the First Judicial Dep't v. Wellman (In re Wellman)
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • August 23, 2022
    ... ... New Hampshire upon respondent ( Matter of Hagendorf , 17 A.D.3d 25, 27, 791 N.Y.S.2d 412 [1st Dept. 2005] ). Rather, a three-month suspension of respondent, as requested by the AGC, is appropriate ... ...

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT