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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Selective Prosecution of Attorney Ethics Complaint

NY Lawyer Suspended for Conduct, False Accusations Against Judges in Suits Against Catholic Church
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - December 12, 2008

ALBANY - Attorney John A. Aretakis was suspended for one year yesterday by an Appellate Division, Third Department, panel for engaging in "undignified and discourteous conduct degrading to the court," much of it while handling cases alleging sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. The panel unanimously upheld professional misconduct charges made by the Committee on Professional Standards. While frequently rebuked and fined by judges hearing his cases, the penalty levied by the court yesterday was the first public disciplinary action against Mr. Aretakis by a professional standards committee. "We find that this record clearly shows that respondent has repeatedly crossed the line separating zealous advocacy from professional misconduct," the court concluded in a per curiam ruling in Matter of Aretakis, D-73-08. "Accordingly, we conclude that, to protect the public, deter similar misconduct, and preserve the reputation of the bar, respondent should be suspended from practice for a period of one year."

Mr. Aretakis, who practices in Manhattan and Albany, said in an interview yesterday he will appeal. Last month, he also filed Aretakis v. Committee on Professional Standards, 1:08-vb-09712, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District, challenging the constitutionality of various provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility as they are interpreted by the committee. He accused the court and the disciplinary committee yesterday of sanctioning him because of his attacks against the Roman Catholic Church on behalf of people allegedly abused by clergy. "I believe that this court is unfairly punishing me due to my zealous advocacy for victims of sexual abuse, primarily victims of Catholic priests who have sexually abused children," Mr. Aretakis said. "This country was founded on principles involving freedom of speech and the rights and duties of all citizens to criticize our institutions, politicians and public officials when we believe that wrongdoing has occurred." Mr. Aretakis, 48, contended that his practice is primarily in the First Department and that the Third Department was an improper forum for his disciplinary case. In its ruling, the five-member panel noted that "although his law office address is in New York City, he also practices in this Department," as defined under 22 NYCRR 806.1. Justices Robert S. Rose, John A. Lahtinen, Anthony T. Kane, E. Michael Kavanagh and Leslie E. Stein joined the ruling.

Frivolous Conduct

The court upheld two charges against Mr. Aretakis. One was a broad charge that he "engaged in frivolous conduct by making false accusations against judges"; "engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as an attorney"; "knowingly made false statements of law and fact"; and "asserted positions which served to harass and maliciously injure."

The court said those charges were based on sanctions Mr. Aretakis has received in four other courts since 2005:

• In 2005, Acting County Court Judge Christian F. Hummel of Rensselaer County found Mr. Aretakis in contempt of court and fined him for making "reckless and unsubstantiated charges." In a recusal motion, Mr. Aretakis accused Judge Hummel of engaging in a criminal conspiracy to predetermine cases and other charges. Two years earlier, Judge Hummel dismissed Mr. Aretakis' suit against the public information chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, finding that the attorney had come close to committing contempt by charging that a conspiracy existed between local Catholic leaders and the judiciary in the Third Judicial District.

• In separate rulings in 2007 and 2008, Northern District Judge Gary L. Sharpe harshly criticized Mr. Aretakis for launching into a protracted attack on the diocese and its handling of sexual misconduct accusations against priests. Mr. Aretakis was representing a woman evicted from diocese-operated housing. Judge Sharpe ordered him to pay more than $16,000 to the diocese toward attorney's fees.

• In February 2007, Southern District Judge Paul A. Crotty fined Mr. Aretakis $8,000 for conduct that was "sloppy and unprofessional" in a priest sex abuse case in which the lawyer attempted unsuccessfully to show the Albany, New York and Newark, N.J., dioceses engaged in racketeering.

• In December 2007, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich found Mr. Aretakis' assertions in a defamation action were baseless and designed only to harass the defendants. She fined him $5,000. Mr. Aretakis said he has paid the sanctions in some cases and has withheld payment in others that are on appeal. The second charge upheld by the appellate panel yesterday said Mr. Aretakis made an "unwarranted, unprofessional and demeaning personal attack" in court papers against Paul Toomey, a town justice in Sand Lake, Rensselaer County. Mr. Aretakis said yesterday he had clashed with Mr. Toomey in criminal cases not involving the church.

The Third Department had granted Mr. Aretakis' request that the Nov. 18 oral arguments in his case be open to the public. Arguments in disciplinary cases are usually closed and papers sealed, but Mr. Aretakis has for years made public all the correspondence between the professional standards committee and himself. Mr. Aretakis acknowledged that he was admonished in October by the Committee on Professional Standards for other activities, including making an accusation in a 2003 speech in Albany to a group of Catholics that a priest was a pedophile. Admonishment is a private sanction. "They were building a file against me," Mr. Aretakis contended. "They admonished me in October and go after me in November and now this comes out just before Christmas. They're coming after me and they've been coming after me for a long time." The Third Department disciplinary committee makes findings that professional misconduct has been committed, but leaves it to the judges to set the punishment. The committee did not recommend sanctions against Mr. Aretakis, said Michael G. Gaynor, counsel to the committee. He declined further comment. Kenneth Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Albany diocese, declined to comment.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Didn't this guy understand that the church has an army of protectors? Whether charges are true or not.

Anonymous said...

The judges believe that helping the Church with sex abuse cases will mitigate all their other corruption in their argument with St. Peter at the Gates to Heaven. "Sorry, your places is in Hell with all your buddies," will be St. Peter's reply.

Anonymous said...

the Third Dept Standards Committee has serious problems whitewashing and not pursuing charges and allegations when the attorneys are "favored" or "protected" especially if the attorneys work with some of the "protected" judges.

Some of the members of the Court itself have some serious issues too not the least of which is selective enforcement of ethics rules, court rules, and more.

these folks are Well skilled in how to do a Political Hit job in the media and well schooled in how to use "Words" to make something dramatic when likely not at all.

so i would not judge aretakis at all without seeing the entire record and hearing all of his arguments in detail.

it is encouraging that Federal Public Integrity folks out of DC are right around the corner with the federal courthouse in Albany as perhaps this will help open up the "inside" game of Albany right in the Capital area as it obviously extends thru the other departments, the CJC, the OCA and more.

maybe aretakis should join one of the related federal suits?

Anonymous said...

Judges not only help churches they also help litigants in child custody cases and will protect attorneys and law guardians with the cover up of child porn and sexual abuse. Go ask judge John K. MCGuirk why he has continued signing ex parte orders to intimidated, extort, retaliated and cover up fraud and child porn. In a custody case where he denied the mother any contact with her children when the mom exposed the law guardian and the other rats involved in rigging the case. The more the mother expose the child porn and fraud the more the court retaliates.

Anonymous said...

The truth is that when Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota convened a grand jury to study abuses of the clergy in the Catholic Church, the District Attorney had NO constitutional authority to do so.

A District Attorney can only use such a grand jury to report and uncover abuses of a public institution. In the sense of the Church being a public institution, it is not for legal reasons. Therefore, Spota knowingly cast aspersions on the Church for poltical capital.

Where were the Bar associations and the courts back then?

retired albany lawyer said...

IT'S CALLED CONTROL BOYS & GIRLS...WHEN YOU DON'T LISTEN TO AND DO WHAT THE JUDGES WANT, READ THE WAY THEY WANT A CASE TO COME OUT, YOU GET PUNISHED...THAT'S ONE OF THE WAYS THE CORRUPTION COMES IN AND THAT IS ONE OF THE REASONS I RETIRED...I DIDN'T WANT TO SWIM IN THE SEA OF CORRUPTION ANY LONGER

Anonymous said...

the fix was and is IN!!!

Anonymous said...

if anyone talks to aretakis he should check out this blog and write to frank brady at corruptcourts@gmail.com and also to changecourtsnow@gmail.com

one has to wonder if the judges even remember the Torres Lopez suit on the unconstitutionality found by the NY federal courts on the system of selecting judges

Anonymous said...

what a shame to attack one of the clear advocates for the people that can't speak for themselves, and who are damaged beyond whatever benefit they might derive. It only goes to show how unfair and tainted the system can be -

tinkerbell said...

Aretakis is also fighting other non-church related sex abuse cases. I refer to the high profile case involving Caroline Nicholson and her daughter against Mr and Mrs. Henry Luce III. The battles he faces in that court however is not too different from the enemy he faces in the church - money, power, corruption.

Check out the article, "The Luce Family War" Vanity Fair, November 2006, by Vicky Ward and also variour articles about the Luces on the web - "I Raped Luce Kid," etc.

Anonymous said...

how corrupt that the courts can support the abuser - or at minimum the harbor of the abuser. just be cause its the church does that give it coverage that any other citizen would not be granted? what a shame - go after the guy who defends those that can't do it without the legal system - clearly this eliminates the advocate and the voice for not only those that have chosen the legal path but those who wait on the sidelines to validate if the legal path really works.

Anonymous said...

what is amazing here is that we allow selected Albany courts to be openly affiliated with the Catholic church. how can that be? As a less public advocate against the harboring of pedophiles by the Albany Diocese, what can you do as as a citizen to help support this cause? Though Aretakis maybe is over zealous in his statements, locally it doesn't dilute the fact that the Albany Catholic Church does not have to adhere to that same legal situation you see in other states related to clergy abuse.

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


               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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