An appellate panel in Western New York has disbarred an already suspended Rochester attorney and ordered the lawyer to repay more than $166,984 to 51 former clients. The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, said Andrew J. Cohen, who was suspended in 2011 for misappropriating client funds had previously received eight letters of caution but had evinced "a total disregard for his fate as an attorney and his professional obligations to his former clients."
According to the order filed Feb. 8, Cohen loaned his wife, a full-time employee in his firm, money from his trust account that he knew belonged to a gravely ill client who died two months later. A loan document Cohen drafted required his spouse to repay the loan at a monthly rate of $1,720, but she did not make any payments, the court said. Additionally, the court said, Cohen represented both his wife and the client in connection with the loan, did not disclose the "inherent conflict of interest" and did not reveal several other relevant facts, such as: he was under investigation for converting $65,000 from an elderly client who was in ill-health; he and his spouse were subject to two federal tax liens, two state court judgments, owed tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt and lived in a house under foreclosure.
Cohen, who was admitted in the Second Department in 1978, was suspended by the Fourth Department on Oct. 7, 2011 (see Matter of Cohen, 89 AD3d 142) for misappropriating client funds and entering into improper loan arrangements with clients to conceal the misappropriation. Subsequently, the Fourth Department's grievance committee filed another petition accusing Cohen of additional misappropriations prior to his suspension and seeking restitution.
Cohen was ordered to appear on Dec. 4, 2012 on a final order of discipline, but the day before the slated proceeding his wife contacted the court and said her husband was medically incapable of appearing.
However, the court noted, Cohen did not contact the court directly, submit any proof of medical infirmity or request an extension of time. Consequently, the court concluded that Cohen admitted the allegations.
Cohen could not be reached for comment.
Joining the decision in Matter of Cohen, N.Y. Slip Op. 00880, were Justices Nancy Smith (See Profile), Eugene Fahey (See Profile), Edward Carni (See Profile), Rose Sconiers (See Profile) and Joseph Valentino (See Profile).
@|John Caher can be contacted at email@example.com.