Court orders suspension, then stay of two Utica lawyers

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Two Utica-based attorneys have had their license to practice suspended for one year by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court after admittedly co-mingling personal and law firm funds with client funds. The court also issued a stay on the suspension as long as the firm submits quarterly reports, allowing the firm to continue to practice.

According to a judgment by the Fourth Judicial Department of Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, John R. Petrone II and Lori E. Petrone, of the Utica law firm Petrone & Petrone, admitted that over a period of 30 months, they failed to maintain a balance in their attorney trust account sufficient to satisfy their obligations to their clients and other third parties.

The judgment also states that the attorneys admitted to transferring funds from their attorney trust account to their law firm operating account for purposes unrelated to client matters, failed to make contemporaneous entries in client account records regarding transactions in the attorney trust account, thereby co-mingling personal and law firm funds with client funds.

The court concluded that the Petrones have violated several Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rules of Professional Conduct.

However, the court states that it took into consideration that during mitigation, the Petrones reported their misconduct to the Grievance Committee and funded an audit of their attorney trust account, and that no client was permanently deprived of funds or was aware that funds were used improperly.

Additionally, the court states that they considered the previously unblemished record of the Petrones, their expression of remorse and their cooperation with the Grievance Committee's investigation.

The court also stated that it considered the Petrones submission that the misconduct occurred "at a time when they were under extreme stress arising from the re-organization of their law firm."

After considering all those factors, the court concluded that the Petrones should be suspended from practicing law for a period of one year and until further order of the court. The court directed that the suspension be stayed on the condition that the Petrones submit quarterly reports prepared by a certified public accountant to the Grievance Committee, confirming that they are maintaining their attorney trust account and preserving client funds in compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

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