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In re Lifshitz

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

February 23, 2017

In re Menachem E. Lifshitz, Respondent.

          Submitted February 1, 2017

         A Suspended Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Bar Registration No. 428625)

         On Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility (BDN-214-16)

          Before Fisher and Easterly, Associate Judges, and Reid, Senior Judge.

          PER CURIAM.

         In response to this court's show cause order as to why he should not be disbarred in this reciprocal discipline matter, respondent Menachem E. Lifshitz requested that his sanction be less severe, and that at any rate, the sanction be effective nunc pro tunc to November 20, 2008, the effective date of his disbarment in the State of New York. Pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (d), Disciplinary Counsel recommends disbarment, to run nunc pro tunc to July 28, 2016, the date of Mr. Lifshitz's interim suspension in this jurisdiction. For the reasons stated below, Mr. Lifshitz is disbarred, effective nunc pro tunc to November 20, 2008.

         FACTUAL SUMMARY

         Mr. Lifshitz pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false personal tax return in violation of N.Y. Tax Law § 1804 (b) and accordingly notified the New York Clerk of the Court of his resignation on November 20, 2008. Mr. Lifshitz was disbarred on October 1, 2009, effective nunc pro tunc to November 20, 2008, the date of his conviction.[1]

         Mr. Lifshitz was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar on May 24, 1991, but he never practiced in the District of Columbia at any point during his career. He did not immediately self-report his New York disbarment to the District of Columbia's Disciplinary Counsel. However, he stopped paying his dues in 2009, and he was administratively suspended in this jurisdiction on October 1, 2009. He notified Disciplinary Counsel of his conviction and New York disbarment in January 2016-when he sought reinstatement in New York. This court suspended Mr. Lifshitz on July 28, 2016, pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (d), and ordered him to show cause as to why reciprocal discipline should not apply in his case-as well as indicating that he should file an affidavit pursuant to D.C. Bar R. XI, § 14 (g). Mr. Lifshitz filed his 14 (g) affidavit and an affidavit pursuant to In re Goldberg, 460 A.2d 982 (D.C. 1982), on August 12, 2016.

         In September 2016, a hearing panel of the New York Disciplinary Committee recommended to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, that Mr. Lifshitz's petition for reinstatement be granted. The hearing panel took into consideration Mr. Lifshitz's failure to immediately self-report his New York disbarment to the District's Disciplinary Counsel. The panel determined that his "stated reasons for failing to notify [this jurisdiction] of his conviction and disbarment are credible[, ]" and the panel concluded that his "conduct was clearly unintentional."

         ANALYSIS

         Reciprocal Discipline

         D.C. Bar R. XI, § 11 (c), governing reciprocal discipline establishes a default rule requiring this court to impose the same discipline as the original disciplining jurisdiction unless the attorney establishes by clear and convincing evidence that his or her case falls within one of five stated exceptions; we interpret these exceptions narrowly. See In re Katz, 150 A.3d 778, 780 (D.C. 2016) (citing In re Chaganti, 144 A.3d 20, 23 (D.C. 2016)).[2] Mr. Lifshitz has invoked only the § 11 (c)(3) exception which provides that: "The imposition of the same discipline by [this] [c]ourt would result in grave injustice."

         Mr. Lifshitz argues that reciprocal discipline in his case would be a "grave injustice" because if he were disbarred, then he would have to wait until 2021-thirteen years after his initial disbarment in New York-to apply for reinstatement in the District of Columbia. We have previously held that when, as here, an attorney has never practiced, has no clients, and no intent to practice in the future in the District of Columbia, assertions of "grave injustice" regarding the reciprocal discipline doctrine are "largely meritless." In re Fuchs, 905 A.2d 160, 164 (D.C. 2006) ("This argument is largely meritless as respondent argues grave injustice and then stipulates that he has never practiced in the District of Columbia, has no relationship with any counsel in the District of Columbia, has no clients or office in the District of Columbia and ...


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