4/21/2014 12:49:00 PM,
Jeff D. Gorman
(CN) - The upstate New York lawyer who lied to a client about a zoning matter for 26 years was properly censured, a state appeals court ruled.
At issue is a petition that the Grievance Committee for New York's 8th Judicial District brought against J. Michael Shane.
Admitted to the New York bar in 1959, Shane had worked out of Olean, N.Y., and Allegany, N.Y., over the years.
The New York Supreme Court appointed a referee to conduct a hearing on the grievance committee's allegations that Shane had neglected a client matter in 1986 and deceived that client regarding the matter for 25 years.
Shane's client had alleged that a certain municipality's zoning regulations had reduced his business, and the referee found that Shane had lied to the client he served papers in the case in 1986.
For the next quarter of a century, Shane "on numerous occasions falsely stated to the client that respondent was prosecuting the matter, and respondent bolstered those misrepresentation with several false documents, including a purported court order and notice of appeal," according to the ruling's summary of the referee's findings.
In 2012, Shane finally admitted to the client that he had never filed the lawsuit.
The Rochester-based Fourth Department New York Appellate Division found Friday that Shane had neglected a client matter and engaged in conduct that adversely affected his fitness as a lawyer.
In mitigation, the appellate justices noted Shane's "otherwise unblemished record after more than 50 years in the practice of law."
They also said Shane was not motivated by profit, but that "it appears respondent sought to avoid advising the client that respondent believed the proposed claims against the municipality lacked merit."
After Shane's "expression to this court of extreme remorse," the justices ruled that a censure was the appropriate sanction.