The Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division finding that sanctions imposed upon an attorney, stemming from the attorney’s representation of a client in a civil matter, should not have been given collateral estoppel effect in an attorney-disciplinary proceeding:
This case is distinguishable from Matter of Levy (37 NY2d 279, 281 ), where we determined that it was neither unreasonable nor unfair to impose collateral estoppel in a disciplinary proceeding after the attorney had been convicted of a criminal offense. There, we held that the attorney would not be permitted to relitigate the issue of guilt after he was convicted following a criminal trial, at “which rigorous safeguards were imposed to insure against an unjust conviction” … .
By contrast, the determination here was made on papers — without cross-examination or the opportunity to call witnesses. … While the issue of whether [the attorney] had made false statements in her written declaration concerning her prior knowledge of [an annuity] agreement may have been relevant, it was certainly not the focus of the hearing … . The cursory nature of the sanctions proceeding itself failed to provide a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue. Matter of Dunn, 2015 NY Slip Op 01556, CtApp 2-24-15