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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 3, 2010
Redlich sues Committee on Professional Standards
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND Republican Councilman Warren Redlich, who is currently running for governor on the Libertarian line, filed a lawsuit this month against members of the Committee on Professional Standards.
He isn’t suing for money, but rather, he said, to protect his civil rights and those of his clients.
Redlich claims his First Amendment rights were violated, and that his clients’ Sixth Amendment rights were violated, when the committee decided his law firm could not handle cases in Guilderland Town Court due to a conflict of interest, and cautioned him againts posting misleading information on his firm’s wesbsite.
He filed the suit against Mark S. Ochs, the chief attorney for the Committee on Professional Standards; James L. Chivers, chairperson for the committee; Anthony V. Cardona, presiding justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Third Division; and Michael Philip Jr., deputy chief attorney for the committee.
Redlich said he thinks he might have been targeted by indvidual Albany County Democrats.
“This case is not about money; it is about my federal constitutional rights,” Redlich told The Enterprise Tuesday, 18 days after he filed the suit with the District Court of Northern New York.
Redlich, who owns The Redlich Law Firm in Albany, was sworn in as a Guilderland Town Board member on Jan. 1, 2008. In February 2008, according to case documents, Donald Csaposs, the town’s grant writer, who has worked on Democratic campaigns, submitted a letter to the committee stating that Redlich’s appointment to the town board should disqualify him from appearing in Guilderland Town Court.
Later that month, Christopher D. Horn, a lawyer with the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, and the town attorney, Richard Sherwood, submitted letters to Judge Thomas Breslin, with Albany County Court, stating that it was a conflict of interest for Redlich to appear in Guilderland Town Court.
In April 2008, Breslin wrote a letter to Philip Caponera, then the chairman of the Committee on Professional Standards, questioning whether Redlich should be allowed to appear in town court. Redlich wrote a letter to the committee, stating that he felt there was no conflict of interest with his firm’s appearing in town court.
In February 2009, the committee sent Redlich a letter saying that it had completed its investigation, and discovered “an official finding of professional misconduct.” In addition to finding it a conflict of interest for Redlich’s firm to appear in town court, the committee said the website for Redlich’s firm contained statements that were “misleading or oversimplifications or exaggerations.”
Redlich asked the committee to reconsider its decision, and he was asked to appear before the committee at the end of March 2009. He received a letter of caution from the committee on June 1, 2009. He again requested that the committee review the decision and rescind the letter of caution. In October 2009, he received a revised letter of caution.
On March 19, 2010, Redlich received a new inquiry from Philip about The Redlich Law Firm handling cases in Guilderland Town Court; Philip Jr. referenced a new complaint from Csaposs.
Filing a suit
Redlich told The Enterprise this week that he had waited until May to file the lawsuit because he was getting paperwork together and deciding exactly how he wanted to handle the case.
He said there has been no conflict of interest between his firm and the Guilderland Town Court, because he has not set foot in the Guilderland courtroom as an attorney since he was appointed to the town board.
“If someone calls our firm and references a ticket in Guilderland, we immediately refer it out. If there is a Guilderland case, we identify that we are representing the client, and the case is transferred to Bethlehem,” Redlich said. He said his firm transfers cases to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, but he believes the firm is entitled to those cases, and that his clients are entitled to retain his firm for counsel, regardless of where they live or were arrested.
In his lawsuit, Redlich claims that the ethics rules the Committee on Professional Standards used as a basis for the decisions allow for “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” He references the New York State Bar Association’s Ethics Opinion 278, which states that other lawyers in a county legislator’s law firm can handle cases in that county court, and Opinion 226, which states that a city councilman can appear in that city’s court; there has never been an ethics opinion stating that a town board member can not practice in the court of that town, he said.
Because of the committee’s decision, Redlich said that an individual who wanted to retain The Redlich Law Firm to represent him in a criminal or traffic matter would not be able to do so, which infringes on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. He listed two plaintiffs, Rita Redlich and David Bradley, on his suit, and said both had received traffic tickets in the town of Guilderland, and felt their interests were best represented by The Redlich Law Firm. Rita Redlich is his mother, and Bradley was his high school science teacher.
If either Mrs. Redlich or Bradley were to receive another traffic ticket in Guilderland, they would not have the option to retain The Redlich Law Firm.
“The decision that no one from our firm can represent a client with a matter in the town of Guilderland is arbitrary and capricious based on the fact that Mr. Redlich is part of the Republican minority in the Town of Guilderland,” reads the suit.
“I think if you look at the people making the complaints, it’s largely Albany County Democrats,” said Redlich, referring to Csaposs and Sherwood.
“I don’t know for sure if that’s the reason I’m targeted; I don’t know what their motivation is,” he said.
Csaposs said he was “sick and tired” of Redlich trying to paint everything as political posturing.
“My distaste for Warren Redlich knows no political bounds. I’ve never supported him under any political party because I think he’s sorely lacking in the moral and ethical standards required for public office,” Csaposs said. He said the Committee on Professional Standards is bi-partisan, and censures people of all political persuasions.
The Committee on Professional Standards could not be reached for comment.
The claim that Redlich’s own First Amendment right to free speech has been violated is based on the committee’s assertion that his firm’s website contained false or misleading statements, and was missing proper disclaimers.
Redlich said the committee had pointed out two places where a disclaimer was missing, which he corrected within 24 hours.
“My website is honest, fair, and accurate,” he said. Redlich said he was not able to defend himself properly even when he appeared before the committee in March of 2009, because there were no witnesses present to say they had been misled by his website.
Redlich said he is not suing for money, but wants to make sure his rights and his clients’ rights are protected.
“It’s unfortunate that it had to come to this,” said Redlich. He said the attorney general, who represents public officials, has up to 45 days to respond to his complaint.
“I’d be surprised if we got an answer before 2011,” Redlich concluded. “I’m confident the constitution is on my side, and I just hope the judge will see it that way.”