Legal Ethics

Law Firm Informant Points Finger at Lawyer for Other Lawyers in Pension Cases

A lawyer representing other lawyers in an ongoing probe of New York pensions being paid to attorneys who alleged did government legal work as private practitioners while being reported as state employees may himself have a dubious claim to his more than $120,000-a-year pension.

Citing claims by an unidentified confidential informant, a state appeals court ruled today that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo does have the power to subpoena information about the government employment of James Roemer Jr. and one of his clients, John Hogan, according to Newsday (sub. req.).

The informant contends that at least some of the government work for which Roemer was paid was actually performed by other attorneys at his law firm. And, the informant alleges, it would be difficult for Roemer to hold a government job while spending up to 12 weeks a year at his vacation home in Hawaii, the newspaper recounts.

Cuomo “provided an attorney affirmation relating information volunteered from a confidential informant who had worked for petitioner’s former law firm. That information indicated that much of petitioner’s work for local governments was actually performed by other members of the law firm in the same manner as work was performed for other clients of the firm,” explains the Appellate Division, 3rd Department, in its written opinion denying Roemer’s petition to quash Cuomo’s subpoena. “However, the firm received petitioner’s salaries from the local governments, rather than payment for traditional retainers or billable hours, indicating that petitioner did not receive such salaries as an individual employee of the local governments.”

Although Newsday reports that the court attaches material concerning the informant’s claims to its opinion, the material is not presently included in the online version.

Meanwhile, in another ruling today concerning Hogan, the appeals court finds that Cuomo has a “more than adequate basis” to subpoena his records based on, among other alleged facts, state retirement system records “disclos[ing] that petitioner was listed as an employee of as many as six school districts at the same time, while also operating a private law office.”

The opinion also notes that “records also indicate that petitioner, as counsel, encouraged school districts to name him as an employee receiving a salary rather than paying a retainer to his law firm.”

Roemer, who is represented by separate counsel in his own pension case, says that Hogan and his other clients in a class action over the state’s attempt to rescind at least part of their pensions, will consider their options, reports the Ithaca Journal.

Those options include an appeal to the state’s highest court, the newspaper notes.

Hogan reportedly is getting a state pension of nearly $92,000 annually.

Although some attorneys are fighting to keep their state benefits, others have settled with the state in its ongoing probe.

Among those who have thrown in the towel are the law firm Hogan founded, Hogan Sarzynski Lynch Surowka & DeWind, the Ithaca Journal recounts. Earlier this year, the firm agreed to pay $100,000 and four partners agreed to forfeit their pension credits and cooperate in the attorney general’s investigation of Hogan.

Earlier coverage: “Iconic N.Y. Lawyer Settles Pension Probe; ‘Worked’ Over 1,200 Days in a Year”

Associated Press: “Court: New York comptroller must return pensions”

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