Law

Lawyer is suspended over forged car registration

An attorney who drove a car with a forged registration sticker for three years has been suspended from the practice of law for three months.

Mark S. Pomerantz knowingly violated the law by cutting out numbers from the registration sticker of his wife's car and putting them on his own sticker. Pomerantz also tampered with his car's registration sticker to show an inaccurate expiration date.

"Forgery, particularly when committed by an attorney, has always been viewed by this Court as a serious matter," a New York appeals court panel observed Tuesday in Matter of Pomerantz, M. 1621, in ordering the attorney's suspension effective Oct. 21.

Pomerantz, a 1985 Fordham University School of Law graduate who was admitted in 1986, went to work as a litigation associate for Mintz & Gold in Manhattan in June 2008. Reached at work Wednesday, he declined to comment.

"The firm has just learned that Mr. Pomerantz has been suspended for personal conduct unrelated to the practice of law that pre-dates his employment at the firm," Steven W. Gold, a partner at the firm, said in a statement. "The firm was unaware of the pending proceeding and underlying conduct, and is taking all steps consistent with its professional obligations."

As of Wednesday, Pomerantz's name, photograph and biography had been removed from the firm's website.

Nassau County police stopped Pomerantz on March 21, 2007, and impounded his car as a result of several motor vehicle infractions including driving with a suspended license and failure to answer a traffic summons. Pomerantz admitted his car had lacked insurance for 18 months and that it had not been registered or inspected. The police then discovered the altered registration sticker, which Pomerantz had been using since February 2004.

Pomerantz was first charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second and third degrees, a class D felony and a class A misdemeanor, respectively.

A felony conviction is automatic grounds for disbarment, according to New York State Judiciary Law. But in October 2007, Pomerantz pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted criminal possession of a forged instrument, a class B misdemeanor. He was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge and fined $660. Chris Munzing, a spokesman for the Nassau County district attorney's office, declined to comment as to why the charges were reduced.

The 1st Department decided in a September 2009 unpublished order that Pomerantz's offense was a "serious crime" and ordered a hearing. Pomerantz, who represented himself, admitted he had been wrong and blamed his wife's illness, "marital turmoil" and financial troubles for his actions.

The panel weighed Pomerantz's contrition against his failure to report his criminal conviction to the disciplinary committee and his own law firm. The panel also considered Pomerantz's failure to offer proof of satisfying a $20,610 New York state tax judgment. The panel also faulted Pomerantz for the lack of documentation regarding payments for a $47,687 federal tax lien and other judgments totaling almost $25,000.

According to the website of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, Pomerantz could have renewed his registration for two years by paying $107.50 to $140.

Pomerantz, who, according to the decision, said he no longer drives and takes public transportation to work, pushed for public censure. The hearing panel recommended a six-month suspension, but the 1st Department settled on three months.

The court noted that sanctions for forgery generally range from a short suspension to disbarment, depending on the frequency of the misconduct and the lawyer's desire for personal profit.

Here, the court pointed out, Pomerantz had not acted out of a desire for personal gain related to his law practice. But it said that aggravating factors disclosed by the record, such as his failure to report his infraction, "cannot be ignored."

The 1st Department panel included Justices Richard T. Andrias, James M. Catterson, Dianne T. Renwick, Leland G. DeGrasse and Sheila Abdus-Salaam.

(Published by Law.com – September 23, 2010)

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