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Brooklyn Bar Association examines new uniform disciplinary rules at CLE

April 25, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hon. Barry Kamins and three attorneys spoke at a Continuing Legal Education session at the Brooklyn Bar Association’s headquarters on Thursday. Pictured from left: Amber Evans, Kamins, Hal R. Lieberman, Robert P. Guido and John R. Urban. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Bar Association hosted Hon. Barry Kamins and three attorneys in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday for a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar on the new Uniform Rules of the Appellate Division on Attorney Discipline that will go into effect later this year.

The four departments of the New York state court system currently have eight different committees for governing attorney conduct. This new system is being adopted to harmonize the various disciplinary procedures around the state to provide a uniform approach.

“Unlike most states, New York has a decentralized system for handling attorney grievances,” Kamins said. “[In New York] each grievance committee has its own set of rules… and there has not been, believe it or not, a single definition of what constitutes professional misconduct.”

Kamins was joined by John R. Urban of John R. Urban & Associates, PLLC; Hal R. Lieberman, a partner at Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady and former chief counsel for the Departmental Disciplinary Committee; and Robert P. Guido, executive director for Attorney Matters, Appellate Division, Second Department, to explain how the new set of rules has changed.

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Kamins provided the history for how the disciplinary rules got to where they are currently and described what has happened that has brought about need for change. Guido gave a presentation on the committee level procedures mentioned in the new rules, Lieberman spoke on formal proceedings of the new rules, and Urban discussed the divergent procedures of the new rules.

“I am very pleased that we are going to have these uniform rules,” Guido said. “I have been advocating my own position on this for 20 years. The disparity and unfairness that the system was creating meant that we needed a change.”

Luckily, for attorneys working in Brooklyn, changes made to the Second Department are not as significant as in the other departments, Guido explained. “There are a couple of changes, but we are not going to be affected in the way the First Department is changing, so we were pretty fortunate in that respect,” he said.

Each of the three attorneys ran down their lists of how the changes will affect practicing attorneys. However, each said the rules should be considered a work in progress.

“The rules that we have now, in my view, have some substantial flaws that need to be revised and upgraded over time and I hope that we can do that,” Lieberman said. “Hopefully this is not the final statement on the rules.”

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