Legal Ethics

N.Y. Appeals Court Fires Lawyer Who Never Met 11-Year-Old Client

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Saying that an attorney’s representation of an 11-year-old client in a family law matter did not comply with court administrative and legal ethics rules, a New York appellate court fired the attorney and ordered that new counsel be appointed for the youth.

J. Mark McQuerrey’s young client “was, at the least, entitled to consult with and be counseled by his assigned attorney, to have the appellate process explained, to have his questions answered, to have the opportunity to articulate a position which, with the passage of time, may have changed, and to explore whether to seek an extension of time within which to bring his own appeal” of the family court order at issue, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division, Third Department, in Albany, explained in a unanimous written opinion. “Likewise the child was entitled to be appraised of the progress of the proceedings throughout. It appears that none of these services was provided to the child.”

McQuerrey, who practices in Rensselaer County, told the court he had been able to determine his client’s position and interests through the trial record in the case, but acknowledged in an interview that he had made a mistake in not meeting with the boy, reports the New York Law Journal in an article reprinted by New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

The case concerns a paternity petition and request for visitation filed by a man who contends that he, and not the man to whom the client’s mother was married at the time he was born, is the boy’s biological father. The Broome County Family Court had dismissed the petition, and McQuerrey filed a brief in support of the dismissal.

“Acknowledging errors is one of the ways that people become better lawyers,” McQuerrey told the legal publication. It was his first representation of a child on appeal.

The case is: Matter of Mark T. v. Joyanna U., No. 504630.

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