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May 02, 2013

Disciplinary hearing held in absentia after employee's attorney’s motion to withdraw from the matter is granted by the administrative law judge


Disciplinary hearing held in absentia after employee's attorney’s motion to withdraw from the matter is granted by the administrative law judge
New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings,OATH Index No 911/13

The New York City Administration for Children’s Services filed eight disciplinary charges, alleging, among other acts of misconduct, that a Juvenile Counselor employed by Children's Services failed to immediately investigate, report, and document a reported incident of alleged child abuse at a juvenile detention center and then later failed to cooperate fully in an investigation of the matter.

The employee failed to appear at the hearing as scheduled. His attorney, however, did appear at the hearing and stated that she had made numerous attempts to contact the employee by Federal Express, by mail, and by telephone, but was unsuccessful. The attorney provided OATH Administrative Law Judge Ingrid M. Addison with proof that she had notified the employee of the hearing date and had notified the employee that she might withdraw representation if she did not hear from him.

The employee’s attorney, based on the employee’s failure to communicate with her, asked to be relieved as counsel pursuant to §1-12(a) of OATH’s Rules of Practice.*

Judge Addison granted the attorney's motion because the employee’s failure to communicate with her rendered her representation of the individual unreasonably difficult and because the ALJ could foresee no “material adverse effect on the interest of [the employee]."

The ALJ then proceed to hold the disciplinary hearing in absentia** and found that: Children’s Services 

[1] Children’s Services had proven seven of its eight allegations;

[2] That there was undisputed evidence of the employee’s misconduct; and 

[3] That there was no mitigating circumstance for the employee’s failure to perform his duty..

Children’s Services had requested a 45-day suspension without pay. Judge Addison agreed that this was an appropriate penalty under the circumstances and recommended that the employee be suspended without pay for forty-five days.

* §1-12(a), Chapter 1, Subchapter B, of OATH’s Rules of Practice provides as follows: An attorney who has filed a notice of appearance shall not withdraw from representation without the permission of the administrative law judge, on application. Withdrawals shall not be granted unless upon consent of the client or when other cause exists as delineated in the applicable provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

** The matter proceeded as an inquest after the Children’s Services presented its proof of service of the notice of the hearing by certified and regular mail addressed to the employee’s address on file with Children’s Services. The certified mailing to the employee was returned by the United States Postal Service marked “unclaimed.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/13_Cases/13-911.pdf

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