Lawmakers Balk at Subpoenas to 'Quite a Few' Firms

, New York Law Journal

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John DeFrancisco
John DeFrancisco

A veteran state lawmaker and practicing attorney whose firm has been subpoenaed by the Moreland Commission said it is vital for the Legislature to challenge the panel's authority to force lawyers to divulge the names of their clients.

Senator John DeFrancisco, a Republican from Syracuse who is of counsel to DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, confirmed that his firm is among those that have received a subpoena demanding the identity of his clients and other information.

The commission appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate corruption in state government is demanding that lawmakers with more than $20,000 in outside income reveal details on the source of the income. Subpoenas were served on "quite a few" law firms over the past several days, according to a source close to the investigation.

DeFrancisco on Monday said his firm has been subpoenaed, but said he is reluctant to comply for two reasons—the ethical issue that could arise if he discloses information about a client and the broader separation of powers issue.

He noted that lawmakers are required by an ethics law enacted by the Legislature to divulge information on outside income, although there are exceptions for lawyers in criminal, matrimonial and bankruptcy matters. He noted that there is no law requiring further disclosure, and suggested Cuomo's commission is engaged in an unconstitutional fishing expedition.

"If there was an ongoing investigation with an issue, that is one thing. But to require every attorney who happens to be in the Legislature open up their client lists, when it is not required by law, is troublesome to me," DeFrancisco said.

The Moreland Commission initially asked lawmakers to voluntarily reveal information on outside income beyond that required under the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011. But after lawmakers refused to divulge the information (NYLJ, Sept. 23), the commission last week voted to "aggressively move forward in compelling production of information into specific matters that the Commission is investigating" (NYLJ, Oct. 16). That vote was followed by subpoenas served on an unspecified number of law firms over the past several days.

Marc Kasowitz of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, is representing the Assembly, and Michael Garcia of Kirkland & Ellis represents the Senate.

Sources said the attorneys are planning to challenge the subpoenas, but it was unclear where or when. The subpoenas are returnable in 10 days.

Kasowitz declined comment. Garcia did not return calls seeking comment.

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