By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Nov 27 (Reuters) - A New York court Tuesday gave a
Lowenstein Sandler partner a three-month suspension for refusing
to immediately hand over a legal fee owed to his former firm.
Citing an earlier suspension by the New Jersey Supreme Court
for the same conduct, the Appellate Division, First Department,
made Michael Etkin's suspension retroactive to Jan. 4, 2012.
According to the ruling, Etkin, who is based in New Jersey,
had worked on a securities litigation case for his former firm
-- Ravin, Sarasohn, Cook, Baumgarten, Fisch & Rose -- and
continued to work on the case after joining Lowenstein in 2000.
In 2003, Etkin received $218,000 in legal fees related to
the case, of which $149,000 belonged to Ravin and the remainder
to Lowenstein, the ruling said.
Etkin, who was embroiled in litigation with Ravin over
salary he believed had been unpaid, did not send the fee to the
firm, according to the ruling.
He eventually sent Ravin $112,000, which represented the fee
minus the money he claimed he was owed, nearly a year and a half
after he received it. The disputed salary was placed in escrow
during arbitration of his claim, which was later resolved.
In December 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered Etkin
suspended for three months.
Etkin urged the First Department to impose the less-severe
sanction of public censure. He argued that he had an otherwise
unblemished record and the conduct in question occurred during a
rancorous fight with Ravin.
The First Department, however, imposed a reciprocal
three-month suspension. In doing so, it noted that "great weight
should be accorded to the sanction administered by the state
where the charges were originally brought."
Justices Angela Mazzarelli, David Friedman, Leland
DeGrasse, Helen Freedman and Sheila Abdus-Salaam made up the
First Department panel.
Three federal courts in New York have imposed similar
three-month reciprocal suspensions retroactive to Jan. 4.
Etkin's attorney, Hal Lieberman, declined to comment.
Lowenstein did not immediately return a request for comment.
The case is Matter of Etkin, Appellate Division, First
Department, No. 668.
For Etkin: Hal Lieberman of Hinshaw & Culbertson.
For the departmental disciplinary committee: Raymond
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