Legal Ethics

No Contempt Case if Lawyer Hosted Mob

A Manhattan lawyer who allegedly hosted meetings for organized crime members who were under court order not to associate with each other can’t be charged with contempt of court, a federal judge has decided. That’s because the order was not specifically directed at the lawyer.

However, there are other mechanisms for dealing with these allegations—which, if true, are “very serious and deeply trouble this court,” wrote U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, in a decision partially granting a defense motion to dismiss a federal criminal case against attorney Larry Bronson. The judge permitted the most serious charges against Bronson—participating in racketeering and money-laundering conspiracies—to proceed, reports New York Lawyer (sub. req.), reprinting a New York Law Journal article.

“At times, a criminal prosecution may be the proper mechanism for the proscription of an individual attorney’s alleged actions,” the judge wrote. “But the body of criminal law does not cover all ill deeds, and punishment should not escape an officer of the court who may not have acted criminally, but whose actions nonetheless may have violated the rules of the legal profession.”

He said he will wait until the case is concluded to determine whether he should refer Bronson to “the appropriate disciplinary committee” concerning possible violations of attorney ethics rules.

A copy of the opinion (PDF) is posted by New York Lawyer.

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