Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lawyer Number 1676253

In 1964, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the British Prime Minister, belatedly realized that he had forgotten to register to vote, and accordingly, could not participate in his own election. It was somewhat of a minor embarrassment at worst; all Sir Alec lost was one of the popular votes, which did not affect the outcome of the election. One need not actually vote in order to be Prime Minister of England.

Last week, the New York Law Journal published a 15-page listing of New York attorneys admitted in the First Department who were delinquent in their registration, along with notice to show that they are in compliance with the registration requirements (i.e., submit the registration form and pay the biennial fee). Apparently, all the lawyers there have not brought their registration status into compliance, despite several notifications sent out by the Office of Court Administration and/or the Disciplinary Committee. The next step, for any of the listed lawyers who fails to comply, is disbarment.

As an attorney admitted to practice in several jurisdictions, including New York, I take somewhat of a hard line view of this. It goes beyond being a week or a month late with getting in the papers and the check; it is now a complete disregard for their professional responsibilities. I can almost understand, and am predisposed to a somewhat more gracious view, with respect to those lawyers who practice out-of-state or out-of-country. And, of course, there invariably are a few who have gone deceased and, as such, are neither able nor qualified to bring their registrations into currency.

But as for the living and breathing New York lawyers, they begin to become a disgrace to the profession, and a cloud upon the integrity of those of us who do comply with the rules.

This Blog has made several postings regarding the Agudath Israel of America, an organization currently in a period of tribulation. Harry Maryles has likewise posted about Agudath Israel on his blog. I will not now go into the niceties of the Agudath Israel's leadership problems, other than to generally state that, unfortunately, it has problems in exercising effective leadership to fulfill what are supposed to be its core mission and values.

The most effective way to lead is by example. After a number of blunders during the past decade or two, AIA needs to set some positive examples for its constituency.

The last lawyer's name enumerated in the New York Law Journal's aforementioned listing is one David Zwiebel, who is none other than Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the Agudath Israel of America's Executive Vice President. According to the New York State Unified Court System's website, Zwiebel (whose New York Attorney Registration Number is 1676253 is slated to reregister in December 2010, which means that his registration last lapsed (i.e., he didn't pay the biennial registration fee) in December 2008, about a year-and-a-half ago. And while Rabbi Zwiebel might arguably not have to practice law as such in his capacity as EVP of AIA, his continuing lapse into delinquent status detracts significantly from his credibility as a spokesperson for an organization that has taken and continues to take so many public stands with respect to so many cases in the courts, civil and criminal. In light of Zwiebel's risk of disbarment, this matter well exceeds the magnitude of ironic embarrassment inherent in Sir Alec Douglas-Home's neglecting to register to vote.

Zwiebel's registration (or lack thereof) may, in and of itself, pale in comparison to Agudath Israel of America's other problems and issues, but, as a poor public example, it is emblematic of AIA's leadership crisis.

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