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IN RE: Douglas G. RANKIN, Attorney at Law
The issue before this court is whether respondent, Douglas G. Rankin, Esq., is guilty of criminal contempt of court under Judiciary Law § 750 (A) (3) for disobeying this court's order to appear for a continued suppression hearing. Guilt requires a finding that respondent engaged in “wilful disobedience” of a lawful order. Respondent argues that the order was unlawful and that his failure to appear was not willful because the adjourn date for the continued hearing conflicted with a sentencing hearing and a pretrial suppression hearing scheduled to start the same day for two incarcerated clients, and that the Uniform Rules for the Engagement of Counsel (22 NYCRR § 125.1) required him to prioritize those cases over the case of a continued hearing for a defendant at liberty. For the reasons stated below, this court finds that the order to appear was lawful and that respondent's failure to appear was willful beyond a reasonable doubt.
I. Procedural History
On June 28, 2022, this court issued an order requiring Douglas G. Rankin, Esq., to show cause why he should not suffer a penalty pursuant to Section 750 (A) (3) of the Judiciary Law and Section 130-2.1 (a) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts (22 NYCRR) for his unjustified failure to appear before this court at 9:30 a.m. on June 16, 2022, in Part 21, in the matter of People v Carlson Small, indictment No. 4698-2018, for the continuation of the suppression hearing that commenced before this court on June 15, 2022. The order to show cause was personally served on respondent, and on July 22, 2022, attorney Richard E. Grayson, Esq., entered his notice of appearance. On August 8, 2022, respondent was served with proposed Court Exhibits 1—16. On September 13, 2022, this court conducted a plenary hearing pursuant to 22 NYCRR § 701.3. At the hearing, respondent called no witnesses, offered no exhibits, and declined to testify. Without objection from respondent, this court received in evidence Court Exhibits 1—16. Subsequently, on November 14, 2022, counsel for respondent submitted a “Brief on Behalf of Respondent.” Respondent has submitted no personal statement of explanation, contrition, or apology. This court's findings of fact are based solely on the evidence in the record, specifically, Court Exhibits 1—16.1
II. Findings of Fact
On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, this court started the pretrial suppression hearings in People v Jamal Lynch and Carlson Small, indictment No. 7522-2018, and People v Carlson Small, indictment No. 4698-2018. This date was scheduled in advance by Justice Danny Chun with notice to all parties. Both defendants were at liberty. Respondent represented defendant Small. Three witnesses testified for the prosecution. At the end of the afternoon session, however, the combined suppression hearing was not finished. The prosecutor had additional witnesses to call before resting.
At the end of the day, this court spoke to the attorneys to pick the soonest reasonable date to continue the hearing. Respondent stated that he was not available the next day. He stated that he had two cases with incarcerated clients scheduled the next day. One was People v Taliby Kaba, Kings County indictment No. 1806-2019, a case pending before Justice Dena Douglas in which the defendant was scheduled to be sentenced on his guilty plea in a homicide case. The other was a pretrial suppression hearing in the case of People v Ahmad Nicholls, Kings County indictment No. 597-2019. This case was pending in Part 2 before Justice Claudia Daniels-Depeyster in the courtroom next door to Part 21. Respondent represented that both sides were ready. This court had the following dialogue with respondent:
“THE COURT: This hearing takes precedence over a hearing that has not begun.
MR. RANKIN: Not to me, nor will I abide by that. I'm not --
THE COURT: Counsel, I order you to abide by it. You do not set the rules.
MR. RANKIN: I reject your order. I'm not doing it, Judge. I'm not letting a guy sit in jail. Not doing it. Not doing it. I'm sorry.”
(Court Exh 3, June 15, 2022 Hearing Transcript at 131—132).
This court then explored the possibility of picking a date in July even though counsel for co-defendant would be out of town that month with his family in a temporary residence. Counsel for co-defendant proposed adjourning the case to a date in July to hear testimony from a Detective Beale, whose testimony related only to defendant Small. This court agreed and turned to respondent for a date to appear before August 8, 2022, which was the first date that counsel for co-defendant was available after June 17, 2022.
As respondent consulted his calendar, this court asked if he was available one day the following week. Respondent replied that he started vacation that week and would be available next on June 30, 2022. When asked if he planned to ask for an adjournment of the pretrial suppression hearing scheduled to start tomorrow in the Nicholls case, respondent stated, “No, I'm going to do the hearing, as long as he's produced” (id. at 139). A brief recess was then taken.
After the recess, this court asked for Detective Beale to be brought into the courtroom and informed him that this court was “trying to pick the soonest reasonable date” for him to testify as the next witness (id. at 140). This court turned to respondent, noting that he had two cases in the courthouse the next day. Respondent then recited his “whole calendar” for the next day, which also included an “in defendant” hearing in a gun case in Queens; a calendar call for an “in defendant murder case” in Brooklyn in Part 7; an “out defendant” gun case on for a hearing in Brooklyn in GP34; a hearing for an “out defendant” gun case in Brooklyn GP19; an “out defendant” gun case on for a hearing in GP34; and an “out defendant” hearing in a rape case in Brooklyn in Part 25 (id.) Respondent stated, “But the ones I focused on were the ones where the people were incarcerated and who had hearings on” (id.).
This court then confirmed that respondent was due to start the hearing in the courtroom located next door to this one. Respondent reported that the attorneys had confirmed their readiness for that hearing, and that the court attorney for Justice Daniels-Depeyster had expressed the hope that the defendant for the hearing would be produced early. Upon confirming that Detective Beale could appear at 9:30 a.m., this court proceeded to adjourn the case to the next day in the following colloquy:
“THE COURT: All right. The case is adjourned --
MR. RANKIN: I'm not stepping in your courtroom tomorrow. As you see, I have a sentencing on a murder that I'm trying to get done. I also have the other case with Ahmad Nicholls. I'm not doing it.
THE COURT: This hearing is continued to tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
MR. RANKIN: You will not see me.
THE COURT: Mr. Small, you are required to be here. Mr. Rankin --
MR. RANKIN: I will make sure my client --
THE COURT: -- you are ordered to be here. Detective Beale you are ordered to be here at 9:30 --
MR. RANKIN: The funniest thing is, Judge --
THE COURT: -- you can put an objection in in writing if you like.
MR. RANKIN: I'm done. I'm just letting you know, I'm objecting. I'm not going to be here. You see all that I have to do tomorrow. You have been very kind, in terms of adjournments for others, but you want me to come tomorrow with my laundry list of stuff I have to do, when I have given a date of June 30th that works for everybody. I get it, you don't like me․ And it's your bias -- and I want to say a word that I'm not going to say -- treatment of me that is just so obvious. Obvious, Judge, in comparison to treatment of others. But you will not see me. But my client will be here at 9:30.
THE COURT: You are ordered to be here at 9:30.
MR. RANKIN: You can order me to do whatever you like. I am telling you, I'm not coming.”
(id. at 142—143).
* * *
“THE COURT: You are required to be here at 9 --
MR. RANKIN: I will not be here tomorrow. I will not be here. You can do whatever it is you like.
THE COURT: Everyone is required to be here at 9:30 ․ Thank you.”
(id. at 143—144).
* * *
“THE COURT: You are required to be here at 9 --
MR. RANKIN: I will not be here tomorrow. I will not be here. You can do whatever it is you like.
THE COURT: Everyone is required to be here at 9:30 ․ Thank you.”
(id. at 143—144).
On June 16, 2022, at 9:09 a.m., respondent emailed to chambers a document captioned, “Affirmation of Engagement.” Although so captioned, the document was not, in fact, an affirmation of engagement.2 The document did not allege that respondent was actually engaged in any matter on that date. The document contained a request to adjourn the matter of Lynch and Small to June 30, 2022, on the ground that respondent had “an incarcerated defendant hearing case and an incarcerated defendant sentence case” (Court Exh 6, Affirmation of Engagement of Douglas G. Rankin, dated June 16, 2022).
At 9:40 a.m. on June 16, 2022, the matter of Lynch and Small was called into the record in Part 21. All parties were present except respondent. This court asked defendant Small to call respondent to let him know that his presence was required immediately in Part 21. By 9:46 a.m., defendant Small had returned to the courtroom. Respondent, however, failed to appear. Without respondent, this court was unable to continue the combined suppression hearing as planned. Instead, to accomplish some portion of the combined hearing, this court resolved to conclude the one prong of the combined hearing that concerned only the voluntariness of a post-arrest statement attributed to defendant Lynch.
At about 10:01 a.m., before continuing with the voluntariness prong of the hearing, this court asked defendant Small if he had spoken to respondent. Defendant Small reported to this court, “He said he has an affirmation, like that, and he won't be here” (Court Exh 7, June 16, 2022 Hearing Transcript at 150—151). This court asked defendant Small to call respondent again to tell him that his presence was required in Part 21, and to ask him when he would make his appearance.
This court then conducted the voluntariness prong of the hearing. The prosecutor, defendant Lynch, Lynch's attorney and defendant Small were present. Detective Beale testified as a defense witness for defendant Lynch. At the conclusion of his testimony, upon this court's inquiry, the prosecutor confirmed that Detective Beale would be available for further testimony if respondent made an appearance. The prosecutor and Lynch's counsel made their arguments on the voluntariness prong of the hearing. Before recessing, this court followed up with defendant Small, asking, when respondent would appear. Defendant Small responded, “He said that he won't be here for the meeting today because he had other matters” (id. at 161).
At 12:48 p.m., the case was recalled into the record. Respondent failed to appear. This court asked defendant Small if he had spoken with respondent. Defendant Small replied, “He said he wouldn't be able to appear” (id. at 162). This court then issued an oral decision on the voluntariness of Lynch's post-arrest statement.
After announcing the decision, this court addressed the matter of respondent's failure to appear. With respect to the Nicholls case pending in Part 2, and the Kaba case pending in Part 35, this court reported its information that neither defendant Nicholls nor defendant Kaba had been brought to court and neither hearing had commenced. This court also reported information that over the course of the morning respondent was present in the courthouse and had made appearances in Parts 2, 7, and 25. This court then adjourned the case to August 9, 2022, and sent the case back to Justice Chun, with the hearings being postponed and incomplete.
Court Exhibits 8—10, 12—13 reveal the following additional information about respondent's activities and whereabouts on June 16, 2022. Respondent was personally present at Kings County Supreme Court, 320 Jay Street, Brooklyn, New York, for most of the morning. He appeared before three justices. First, he appeared in Part 7 before Justice Vincent Del Guidice in the matter of People v Jadis Saint Victor and Jean B. Saint Victor, indictment No. 73828-2021, who sent the case forthwith to Part 25. Respondent then appeared in Part 25 before Justice Jill Konviser on two cases, the matter of Victor and Victor and the matter of People v Akijah Hall, indictment No. 6312-2019, both of which were promptly adjourned. At 10:30 a.m., respondent went to Part 2, evidently checking in on the Nicholls case. Later, at 12:46 p.m., respondent appeared on the record in Part 2 before Justice Daniels-DePeyster in the Nicholls matter. Defendant Nicholls had not been produced to court, and Justice Daniels-DePeyster adjourned the hearing to begin on another date.
By the afternoon on June 16, respondent left the courthouse. He made a virtual appearance in Part 35 before Justice Douglas in the Kaba case but defendant Kaba also had not been produced to court, and Justice Douglas adjourned the sentencing hearing to another date.
III. The Plenary Contempt Hearing
At the plenary contempt hearing, counsel for respondent did not dispute that the court order to appear for the continued hearing was “clear and unequivocal” (Transcript of Plenary Contempt Hearing, dated September 13, 2022, at 5—6). However, he disputed that the order was lawful, arguing that “[t]he problem with the order is that there are conflicting rules that the attorney ․ must follow” (id. at 5). He also argued that respondent's disobedience of the order was not willful (id.).
In support of both arguments, counsel relied on the Uniform Rules for the Engagement of Counsel (22 NYCRR § 125.1). He quoted the language in 22 NYCRR § 125.1 (c), which states that the court “shall ․ give priority to ․ criminal proceedings ․ where the defendant ․ is incarcerated” (Transcript of Plenary Contempt Hearing, dated September 13, 2022, at 7—8). He also cited the language in 22 NYCRR § 125.1 (d) stating that “where an attorney has conflicting engagements, such attorney must proceed in whichever matter is entitled to a statutory preference.” He argued that respondent's “intention was to appear on June 16th in the two cases of his incarcerated clients” (Transcript of Plenary Contempt Hearing, dated September 13, 2022, at 8).
Upon acknowledging that respondent had appeared in person in other matters in the same courthouse, counsel explained that respondent did not appear on the Small case “because he didn't want to be forced to start a hearing he was not prepared to do” (id. at 13). This court then informed counsel that the hearing in the Small case had started the day before and that respondent did not at any time that day complain that he was unprepared for the Small hearing (id. at 13—14). Counsel replied: “If Mr. Rankin had appeared in your court on June 16th while waiting for the production of Kaba and Nicholls, he would have been forced to start a hearing for which he was not prepared because of his preparations for the Kaba and Nicholls cases” (id. at 15).
In reply, this court corrected “a fact” in counsel's argument, stating, again, that “I did not order the respondent to begin a hearing on June 16th. I ordered him to come to this part to continue the hearing that we had commenced the day previous, on June 15th” (id.). This court further stated, “So I did not require him to be here to start a hearing on June 16th. I required him to be here to continue a hearing that had commenced the day previous. And I set this Court's schedule to accommodate Mr. Rankin's schedule” (id.).
Counsel answered that Small “was a drug case where the defendant was not incarcerated. Pursuant to the rules of the chief administrator and set forth in Judiciary Law section 212 and 22 NYCRR 125, Mr. Rankin's priorities had to be with the Kaba and Nicholls cases” (id. at 16). Counsel contended that “it was unnecessary for the case against Mr. Small, a non-incarcerated defendant, to continue on June 16th. Any other date could have been chosen and other dates were chosen” (id.). Counsel argued that respondent's failure to appear for the continued hearing was justified:
“Mr. Rankin was obeying the rules of the Chief Administrator as set forth in 22 NYCRR 125 and in Judiciary Law section 212 ․ Therefore, while my client admits that he did not appear in your court on June 16th, 2022, at 9:30 a.m., he had justifiable reasons for his absence. Those justifiable reasons were his representation of the incarcerated defendants, Kaba and Nicholls, whose cases were entitled to a priority under section 125.”
(id. at 19—20).
Pursuant to Judiciary Law § 750 (A) (3), “[a] court of record has power to punish for a criminal contempt, a person guilty of ․ [w]ilful disobedience to its lawful mandate.” A finding of criminal contempt requires a showing that the alleged contemnor violated a clear and unequivocal mandate of the court (Wheels Am. NY, Ltd. v. Montalvo, 50 AD3d 1130, 1130, 856 N.Y.S.2d 247 [2d Dept. 2008]), and that the disobedience was willful (Dalessio v. Kressler, 6 A.D.3d 57, 66, 773 N.Y.S.2d 434 [2d Dept. 2004]). “Knowingly failing to comply with a court order gives rise to an inference of willfulness which may be rebutted with evidence of good cause for noncompliance” (id.). Guilt for criminal contempt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt (Madigan v. Berkeley Capital, LLC, 205 A.D.3d 900, 906, 169 N.Y.S.3d 326 [2d Dept. 2022]). A good faith belief that a court order is improper or unlawful will not render the order unlawful nor will it excuse willful disobedience (see Matter of Balter v Regan, 63 N.Y.2d 630, 631, 479 N.Y.S.2d 506, 468 N.E.2d 688, cert denied 469 US 934, 105 S.Ct. 333, 83 L.Ed.2d 269 ; see also Maness v. Meyers, 419 U.S. 449, 458, 95 S.Ct. 584, 42 L.Ed.2d 574 ).
A. The order to appear was a lawful mandate of the court.
At the plenary hearing, respondent disputed that the order was lawful. But a “lawful mandate” of the court is any order that is not void on its face (Dalessio v. Kressler, 6 A.D.3d at 65, 773 N.Y.S.2d 434). And respondent does not argue that the order here was “void on its face.” Indeed, that argument would be meritless. Courts routinely order attorneys and witnesses to appear on dates certain for continued proceedings. The order directing respondent to appear was no different.
Instead, respondent argues that the order was unlawful because it conflicted with the requirements of the Uniform Rules for the Engagement of Counsel (22 NYCRR § 125.1). This argument has no merit. Even if that alleged conflict existed, a conflict between two facially valid mandates does not mean that one or the other is unlawful or void on its face. An attorney's decision to obey one or the other mandate might have a bearing on the wilfulness of one's disobedience of the other, but not on the lawfulness of either mandate (see Matter of Kuriansky v. Solomon, 210 AD2d 43, 44, 619 N.Y.S.2d 266 [1st Dept. 1994]). Thus, the only remaining issue to be decided is whether respondent willfully disobeyed the order to appear on June 16 for the continued suppression hearing.
B. Respondent's failure to appear was willful beyond a reasonable doubt.
As noted previously, one's knowing failure to comply with a court order “gives rise to an inference of willfulness which may be rebutted with evidence of good cause for noncompliance” (Dalessio v. Kressler, 6 A.D.3d at 66, 773 N.Y.S.2d 434). Respondent argues that the inference of willfulness is rebutted because he was obeying the Uniform Rules for the Engagement of Counsel (22 NYCRR § 125.1). According to respondent, those rules required him to prioritize the scheduled proceedings for two incarcerated clients over the ongoing proceeding of a client at liberty. Those rules, however, do not support this argument, and they do not provide good cause for respondent's failure to disobey the order to appear on June 16 for the continued hearing.
The Uniform Rules for the Engagement of Counsel (22 NYCRR § 125.1) did not require respondent to prioritize cases in which hearings had not yet started over a case in which a hearing had started already. Respondent cites subsection (d), which requires an attorney with a scheduling conflict in criminal cases to give preference to the case of an incarcerated defendant (id. § 125.1 [d]). But that rule is subject to subsection (f), which states that, when “a trial already has commenced, and an attorney for one of the parties has an engagement elsewhere, there shall be no adjournment of the ongoing trial except in the sole discretion of the judge presiding thereat” (id. § 125.1 [f]). This court finds that subsection (f) applies equally to pre-trial suppression hearings. The rules demonstrate that subsection (d) does not apply when counsel is actually engaged in a hearing that has been adjourned to the same day as a matter that otherwise would be entitled to a statatory preference.
Under these rules, this court had sole discretion to deny respondent's request for an adjournment and to adjourn the case to a date when he was scheduled to start hearings in other cases. When this court adjourned the hearing to the next day, subsection (d) no longer required respondent to proceed the next day “in whichever matter is entitled to statutory preference” (id. § 125.1 [d]). This rule therefore does not support respondent's argument that his “priorities had to be with the Kaba and Nicholls cases,” that those “cases were entitled to a priority under section 125,” or that he “was obeying the rules of the Chief Administrator as set forth in 22 NYCRR 125.” Rather, respondent was required to appear for the ongoing hearing as ordered by “the judge presiding thereat” (22 NYCRR § 125.1 [f]).
Respondent also argues that he did not appear for the continued hearing because he did not want to be “forced to start a hearing for which he was not prepared because of his preparations for the Kaba and Nicholls cases” (Transcript of Plenary Contempt Hearing, dated September 13, 2022, at No. 15). But this argument rests on the false factual premise that this court had ordered him to appear to start a hearing. Not so. This court ordered him to appear to continue a hearing that already had started. Therefore, this was not a situation in which respondent had been ordered to start a hearing on the same day when he was due to start hearings on other matters that were entitled to a statutory preference under Section 125.1 (c) of the Uniform Rules of the Engagement of Counsel (22 NYCRR).
Moreover, respondent was required to appear at 9:30 a.m. as ordered even if he was, in fact, unprepared to continue the hearing because of his preparations for his other cases that day. He was required to appear and seek an adjournment on the ground of unpreparedness. His purported fear that he would be required to continue the hearing when he was unprepared to do so did not provide good cause to disobey the order to appear for the continued hearing (see Matter of Balter v. Regan, 63 N.Y.2d at 631, 479 N.Y.S.2d 506, 468 N.E.2d 688). Any prejudice that defendant Small might have suffered from being represented at a pretrial suppression hearing by unprepared counsel “could have been remedied through the appellate process” if there were a conviction (id.).
In addition, the record contains no evidence that respondent was, in fact, unprepared to continue the hearing on June 16. He was prepared when the hearing began the day before on June 15. His motion for a suppression hearing had been granted by Justice Chun over three years earlier, and the June 15 date was chosen with notice to respondent. His preparedness for the hearing was demonstrably apparent. He participated in the hearing; he made legal arguments; and he engaged in effective cross examination of the witnesses. Moreover, respondent never complained to this court before the case was adjourned that he was not ready to continue the hearing by taking testimony from a single witness. This court finds no basis in the record to support a good faith claim that respondent avoided appearing on the Small case because he was unprepared to participate in the ongoing hearing.
Instead, this court finds from the repeated instances in which respondent flouted the authority of this court that his failure to obey the order to appear for the continued hearing on June 16 was willful. At the outset of the discussion about adjourning the hearing, when this court told respondent that the hearing took precedence over any hearing that had not begun, respondent stated: “Not to me, nor will I abide by that.” When this court ordered him “to abide by it,” respondent flatly refused, stating, “I reject your order. I'm not doing it, Judge. I'm not letting a guy sit in jail. Not doing it. Not doing it. I'm sorry.”
Later, when this court adjourned the hearing to the next day, respondent again flouted the authority of this court, stating, “You will not see me․ I'm not doing it․ You will not see me.” He persisted in doing the same each of the three times that he was ordered to appear the next day: (1) “I'm not going to be here․ But you will not see me”; (2) “You can order me to do whatever you like. I'm telling you, I'm not coming”; and (3) “I will not be here tomorrow. I will not be here. You can do whatever it is you like.” As this court stated, however, respondent did not “set the rules.” Under the rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, the decision about whether to grant an adjournment of the ongoing hearing rested “solely” with this court, not him.
Notwithstanding respondent's objection to the adjournment, this court's decision to adjourn the suppression hearing one day to take testimony from one witness was a reasonable accommodation of the scheduling concerns of all parties, including respondent. This court considered the vacation plans of respondent and of counsel for co-defendant, and determined that it was reasonable to adjourn the hearing to the next day to take testimony from one witness who had personally confirmed his availability for that day. This court ordered everyone to arrive promptly at 9:30 a.m. so the hearing could start and finish in time to allow respondent to attend to his other matters afterwards. As it turned out, the one-day adjournment had no effect on respondent's ability to appear on the Nicholls and Kaba cases, as neither defendant ever came to court on June 16, 2022, and their hearings were adjourned to later dates.
In the end, the decision to grant or deny “an adjournment for any purpose is a matter resting within the sound discretion of the trial court” (Matter of Steven B., 6 N.Y.3d 888, 889, 817 N.Y.S.2d 599, 850 N.E.2d 646  [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]). And under no circumstances could respondent “arrogate to himself the authority” to adjourn the hearing “simply by refusing to appear” (Saleh v. Saleh, 121 A.D.2d 822, 823, 504 N.Y.S.2d 568 [3d Dept. 1986]). The record here establishes, beyond a reasonable doubt, that respondent's failure to appear was “premeditated, blatant and willful” (Matter of Rankin, 35 Misc. 3d 1207[A], 2012 WL 1150126, *7 [Sup. Ct., Kings County 2012] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]). His failure to appear was contempt of court under Judiciary Law § 750 (A) (3).
C. Douglas G. Rankin, Esq. has a history of failure to attend scheduled court appearances.
Respondent has a history of being sanctioned for his unjustified failure to attend scheduled court appearances pursuant to Section 130-2.1 (a) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts (22 NYCRR). An inquiry to the Lawyer's Fund for Client Protection reveals that respondent paid financial sanctions on at least four occasions, as follows: on June 22, 2004, in People v Sepulveda, Sup Ct, Westchester County, indictment No. 789-2003, Justice Barbara Gunther Zambelli imposed a $250 financial sanction against respondent; on March 16, 2010, in People v Anthony Jones, Sup Ct, Kings County, indictment No. 3745-2007, Justice Raymond Guzman imposed a $400 financial sanction against respondent; on March 26, 2010, in a special proceeding in the Matter Imposing Sanctions against Douglas G. Rankin, Esq., Sup Ct, Kings County, Justice Michael A. Gary imposed a $50 financial sanction against respondent; and on November 14, 2019, in a special proceeding in the Matter of Douglas G. Rankin, Esq., Sup Ct, Queens County, index No. 190-2019, Justice Deborah Stevens-Modica imposed a $500 financial sanction against respondent. In 2012, Justice Suzanne M. Mondo imposed a $500 financial sanction upon a finding that respondent had “a history of appearing late for cases that are on for trial (Matter of Rankin, 35 Misc. 3d 1207[A], 2012 WL 1150126, *7 [$500 financial sanction imposed]). Similarly, Justice Daniel P. Conviser granted the District Attorney's motion to relieve respondent as counsel upon a finding that respondent “repeatedly failed to comply with court orders directing him to appear on specified dates and times and be ready for trial” (People v Jones, 31 Misc. 3d 1241 [A], 2011 WL 2347587, *17 [Sup. Ct., N.Y. County 2011]).
D. Douglas G. Rankin, Esq.’s willful failure to appear interfered with the efficient administration of the court.
Respondent's willful disregard of this court's reasonable scheduling order has caused delay and cost resources of the court. As a result of respondent's contemptuous behavior, the Small suppression hearing was severed from the Lynch suppression hearing, with the Small case going to Justice Jane Tully in Part 29 and the Lynch case going back to this court in Part 21. Severance of the two hearings has required the District Attorney to conduct the Small hearing de novo, requiring another presentation of the witnesses and evidence for that hearing. The Lynch hearing was concluded on October 3, 2022. The Small hearing is still pending and is now set to begin de novo in Part 29 on January 10, 2023.
For the foregoing reasons, this court finds, beyond a reasonable doubt, that respondent, Douglas G. Rankin, Esq., willfully disobeyed a lawful mandate of this court when he failed to appear for a continued suppression hearing at 9:30 a.m. on June 16, 2022, in the matters of People v Jamal Lynch and Carlson Small, indictment No. 7522-2018, and People v Carlson Small, indictment No. 4698-2018, in violation of Section 750 (A) (3) of the Judiciary Law. With due consideration to all the circumstances brought to this court's attention, this court finds that a fine is appropriate in the amount of $750.00. This amount is intended to be adequate, but no more than necessary, to compel respondent to respect orders of this court and any other court in which he might appear.
As a matter of discretion, the court declines to impose a financial sanction pursuant to 22 NYCRR § 130-2.1.
It is therefore, ORDERED that the respondent, Douglas G. Rankin, Esq., having violated Section 750 (A) (3) of the Judiciary Law, shall pay a fine in the amount of $750.00, payable to the clerk of the court, within 30 days of this order.
1. This court has considered all legal arguments made on behalf of respondent at the plenary hearing on September 13, 2022, and in the brief submitted on November 14, 2022.
2. The affirmation failed to comply with Section 125.1 (e) (1) of the Uniform Rules for the Engagement of Counsel (22 NYCRR), which requires an attorney to prove each purported engagement by affidavit or affirmation, filed with the court together with proof of service on all parties, setting forth the title of the action or proceeding in which counsel is engaged, its general nature, the court and part in which it is scheduled, the name of the judge, and the date and time the engagement is scheduled to commence, or did commence, and the date and time of its probable conclusion.
Heidi C. Cesare, J.
Response sent, thank you
Docket No: Index No. 370-2022
Decided: January 03, 2023
Court: Supreme Court, Kings County, New York.
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