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Monday, December 31, 2007

Court Suspends Lawyer During Conduct Probe (MORE, CLICK HERE)

The New York Law Journal
by Anthony Lin - December 31, 2007

A lawyer accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a retired Brooklyn judge whose estate she was overseeing as a guardian has been suspended from practice because her alleged misconduct "immediately threatens the public interest."

Emani P. Taylor has been the subject of disciplinary proceeding over her alleged withdrawal without authorization of $327,100 from accounts of John L. Phillips, a onetime Civil Court judge who was ruled mentally incompetent in 2002. Ms. Taylor, who served as Mr. Phillips' guardian from 2003 to 2006, has acknowledged withdrawing some money but claims she did so properly both to pay herself and others for services rendered (NYLJ, Jan. 12).

In a decision Thursday suspending Ms. Taylor pending the outcome of her disciplinary proceeding, the Appellate Division, First Department, said the lawyer's explanation for the withdrawals "strains credibility."

"At a minimum, [Ms. Taylor] withdrew funds from the guardianship account as legal fees without court permission, at worst, she intentionally converted guardianship funds," a unanimous panel of Justices Richard T. Andrias (See Profile), Eugene Nardelli (SeeProfile), Luis A. Gonzalez (See Profile), John W. Sweeny (See Profile)and Bernard J. Malone (See Profile) said in Matter of Emani P. Taylor, M-5482.

The decision appears on page 2 of today's Law Journal.

The court also said Ms. Taylor had not cooperated with the disciplinary investigation and that her lack of cooperation could "only be interpreted as a deliberate and willful attempt to impede the [Departmental Disciplinary] Committee's investigation.

Citing Ms. Taylor's lack of cooperation, the court said it would accept as uncontested an accounting prepared by a court-appointed examiner of the period during which Ms. Taylor acted as Mr. Phillips' guardian. According to this accounting, Ms. Taylor wrote $200,000 in checks to herself from guardianship accounts for supposed retainers and legal fees. Another $69,000 was paid to herself or to "cash" for supposed expenses and another $57,000 was withdrawn in cash.

In an affidavit submitted in response to the committee's suspension motion, Ms. Taylor claimed her authority for the withdrawals came from an order by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Michael Pesce (See Profile) concerning the sale of a property owned by Mr. Phillips. But the court noted that the order cited by Ms. Taylor only specifically addresses renovation work and fees for health care professionals, not legal fees.

"While [Ms. Taylor] was entitled to be compensated for the work she performed for three years, self-help to guardianship funds is not the way to proceed," the court said.

The court also said it was "very disturbing" that Ms. Taylor had applied to the court for $853,100 in legal fees relating to her guardianship but did not disclose that she had already withdrawn from the guardianship account more than $327,000 for her own use.

The propriety of Ms. Taylor's withdrawals is also at issue in a civil case before Justice Pesce. The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office had also investigated Ms. Taylor but determined no crime had taken placealthough it said that there might have been violations of disciplinary rules.

Ms. Taylor appeared pro se and Andral N. Britton appeared for the disciplinary committee.

Earlier this month, Acting Supreme Court Justice Michael A. Ambrosio (See Profile) ordered the sale of the Black Lady Theatre in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, which is owned by Mr. Phillips. The theater has been appraised at $1.5 million and is being sold to satisfy $2 million in tax liens and other judgments, according to Mr. Phillips' court-appointed guardian, James H. Cahill Jr. of Cahill & Cahill.

Mr. Cahill also said at the time that Ms. Taylor is scheduled to appear at a Feb. 5 hearing, where more than $500,000 will be sought (NYLJ, Dec. 10).

- Anthony Lin can be reached at alin@alm.com.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

All of this poor soul's last moments on earth was an example of human's worse sin ..... greed! It hurts me to know that we all have to have someone designated to watch our backs and and final breaths. This atty should be made to live the rest of her life in a nursing facility that cares only for the elderly! I am big on punishment that emulates the crime! I am disgusted by this entire story...move this man somewhere else in NY state!

Anonymous said...

As bad as this bitch attorney's greedy actions were, blame must also be put before the judge and other court officials who allowed her to get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Amen

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Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:


               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
         
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2