Panel Censures Lawyer and His Debt Collection Firm

, New York Law Journal

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a gavel on top of debt paperwork

The firm abandoned the collection against the doctor in 2005 but was retained the following January to again collect a debt from "Gulam Mujtaba." It went after Dr. Mujtaba again and, despite being notified he was not the debtor, caused a summons and complaint to be served in October 2006, the court said.

In another instance, the firm was retained in 2004 to collect $5,107 from Peter Kerschhagel of Dobbs Ferry. Despite having information that the debt had been satisfied in 2003, the court said Cohen & Slamowitz continued to pursue collection, securing a default judgment for the firm's client-creditor in 2006 and then causing Kerschhagel's bank account to be restrained.

In a case involving debtor Barbara Durand, the court said Cohen & Slamowitz were sent a check satisfying her debt in June 2006 but that the firm had not properly made a satisfaction of judgment with Syracuse City Court nearly a year later.

Another complaint concerned efforts in 2005 to collect $1,450 from "Mohammad Qader" of Brooklyn. The grievance committee said Cohen & Slamowitz instead went after Mohammad Quader of Rego Park. Despite being advised that Quader was not the debtor, the firm caused a summons and complaint to be served on him, the court noted.

The disciplinary charges stemmed from a grievance committee petition served on Cohen & Slamowitz in November 2008. Over the intervening years, special referees Charles Cacciabaudo and Joseph Esquirol Jr. were appointed to hear the case but were later relieved.

The report from a third special referee, Kenneth Davis, was before the Second Department on Feb. 13.

Of the four charges brought by the grievance committee, Davis had sustained the misconduct allegations in the Quader and Kershhagel matters but found no pattern or practice of misconduct. Davis did not sustain two other charges on the same grounds. He upheld the charge by the Durand case.

All four misconduct charges were upheld by the Second Department panel.

Presiding Justice Randall Eng (See Profile) and Justices William Mastro (See Profile), Reinaldo Rivera (See Profile), Peter Skelos (See Profile) and Cheryl Chambers (See Profile) were on the panel.

The judges said that while Cohen did not testify in the firm's defense, attorney Ronald Abramson did. Abramson is a creditors' attorney and a member of the grievance commission of Maryland.

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