U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Suspends Lawyer Who Repeatedly Defaulted in Appeals

Nothing can keep a lawyer up at night like the fear of missing a deadline or failing to file a required document. Not only do such errors do a disservice to the client, they can make the attorney look like a fool.

Well, apparently not every lawyer has those worries.

In a scathing public reprimand, the Second Circuit has suspended attorney Andres Aranda for extensive misconduct. Aranda was suspended for eighteen months for failing to file papers, briefs or respond to court orders, leading to numerous defaults in appeals in the Second Circuit.

Get a New Lawyer, Guys

The court's decision details six appeals which were dismissed or almost dismissed because of Aranda's defaults. All of those cases were appeals from criminal cases where Aranda's clients were sentenced to lengthy prison terms -- some nearing twenty years imprisonment.

In one case, Aranda represented a man sentenced to 10 years in prison. He failed to pay the filing fee or even file a brief on time. The case was dismissed because of Aranda's numerous defaults. (The client eventually had his appeal reinstated, getting his sentence reduced by almost half.) Aranda claimed he defaulted out of simple "inexperience and unfamiliarity." That does explain why he couldn't follow a court order or return court phone calls, the Second Circuit noted.

Indeed, if Aranda wasn't good at meeting deadlines, he was even worse at responding to the court's order to show cause. In his response to the order, he repeatedly fails to explain, or even mention, defaults, dismissals and calls from the court. In response to one case, he simply notes that he does not "feel competent to comment on that case." Indeed.

But Wait, There's More!

The discipline wasn't limited to Aranda's defaults, however. He also faced discipline for misconduct in district court, failure to properly respond to the court's order to show cause, and failure to submit requested documents about past discipline. In a district court case, Aranda was censured for failing to file an appeal according to his client's wishes, depriving the client of effective assistance of counsel. Aranda argued that the client hadn't paid him, which the Second Circuit noted was no reason to not file.

The Second Circuit noted this wasn't Aranda's "first wake-up call." He had faced discipline several times before: in 1986, 1989, 1993, 2006 and more. This may not be his last, however. Aranda's suspension ends in December, 2016. Assuming he doesn't appeal, that is.

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