Legal Ethics

Ex-Pro Bono Chief for Kaye Scholer Suspended for Failing to Pay Taxes

The former head of pro bono at Kaye Scholer has been suspended from practice for a year for failing to pay millions of dollars in state and federal taxes for at least nine years.

A disciplinary committee had originally recommended a six-month suspension for former Kaye Scholer partner John J.P. Howley, but New York’s appellate division increased the penalty to a one-year suspension, according to the New York Law Journal and the Am Law Daily.

Howley has since paid New York State taxes and worked out a deal to make payments to the Internal Revenue Service for more than $2.4 million owed. However, he was unable to make a $1 million payment to the IRS when the sale of his home was delayed.

Witnesses for Howley had said he devoted thousands of pro bono hours to the representation of death row defendants, the opinion says. A letter from a psychiatrist said Howley had an obsessive compulsive personality disorder that caused him to be compulsive about work but careless about personal matters.

But the appellate panel noted “vastly more compelling” aggravating factors, including Howley’s purchase of a five-bedroom house in New Jersey, a four-bedroom home in Florida and three luxury cars. The opinion also said the psychiatric claim was not credible.

“The picture that emerges is that [Howley], without any justification, and while enjoying a lavish life style, disregarded his tax obligations,” the opinion said.

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