February 17, 2017 Top Story

Automatic Disbarment: A Sobering Reality for Convicted Attorneys

DWI felony conviction in another jurisdiction triggers instant disbarment

Kristen L. Burge

Felony drunk driving constitutes grounds for automatic disbarment, though felony wire fraud does not, under one court's interpretation of New York's automatic disbarment law. Only crimes defined by New York law as felonies and those deemed "essentially similar" to a New York felony trigger automatic disbarment. Other jurisdictions' definitions of criminal activity, and not the nature or severity of the crime itself, will determine whether a New York attorney is immediately disbarred upon a felony conviction.

Automatic Disbarment Hinges on State Crime Analog

Douglas Sheehan was a Connecticut resident and attorney licensed in Connecticut and New York. Between September 2003 and November 2007, Sheehan engaged in fraudulent mortgage lending. A federal judge convicted Sheehan of federal conspiracy and wire fraud in 2010, but Sheehan did not notify New York of those convictions as required by law. In 2011, Sheehan pleaded guilty to felony DWI in Connecticut—his second DWI offense within 10 years.

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