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After being suspended for 7 years and not even knowing it, a New York attorney is fighting a rather steep uphill battle to get back his license to practice. Most attorneys are likely most curious about the very rational question: How do you not know you're suspended from practice for 7 years?!?
The short answer: You don't think about it for 6 years.
Suspension Ignorance is Bliss
As it would happen, the attorney in question, who hadn't died, gone missing, nor anything of that sort, just hadn't paid dues or reported CLE compliance since 2001. Yet, for some reason, he still believed that his license was active until another attorney, in April 2017, told him he was listed as suspended.
Apparently, in 2010, the attorney was suspended as part of a case that sought to resolve many lawyers' licensing housekeeping issues, like suspending attorneys that don't pay dues or report CLE compliance for nearly a decade. As the recent order maintaining the attorney's indefinite suspension, it is explained that Attorney M. Scott Vayer, around 2001, was "engaged in major litigation" and was confronting stressors personally and professionally. In short, he became overwhelmed and continued to put off his CLE requirements, which also became a source of stress. The court aptly described his conduct as "willful ignorance."
Excusable Willful Ignorance?
Vayer acknowledged that he did not think he was in "good standing," but claimed that he was unaware of the suspension. He claims to have never received notice of his suspension, which likely was due to his own failure to update his address after moving.
While the licensing authority may still be pressing forward for summary disbarment, a few notable facts played in Vayer's favor. For one, the court found that there had been no harm to any clients, opponents, or the courts. Further, upon discovering the suspension, the attorney came into compliance by completing the outstanding CLE requirements and paying the delinquent dues. Additionally, he immediately suspended his practice upon discovery of the suspension.
The court presumed that the state bar's investigation will continue, which means that Vayer could be looking at formal disbarment charges.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.