As far as I can tell, the NY State Bar exists to protect incompetent and dishonest immigration attorneys.* It could care less about the immigrant victims of those attorneys.

New York has more attorneys than any other state-about 157,000 of them (as of 2010).* A disproportional number of immigration attorneys are barred in NY because it is one of the few states that allows foreign lawyers to sit for the bar (assuming they take a certain number of credit hours at a U.S. law school), and many foreign-trained attorneys practice immigration law.* Because there are so many immigration attorneys barred in New York, the NY Bar Association has a particular responsibility to protect immigrant victims of attorney malpractice.*

What other organization protects its own (and its pets) regardless of right or wrong?

Thus, when an alien (or her attorney) files a bar complaint against a New York-barred lawyer, you might think the Bar Association would take that complaint seriously.* Unfortunately, this is not the case.*

As an initial matter, it is not easy to file a bar complaint in New York.* Unlike most other states, there is no central authority where complaints are filed.* Instead, the injured client needs to determine the correct NY department with authority over the offending attorney.* This depends on where the attorney is located, but it is not always easy to figure out.* Once you know the correct department, you can file your complaint.*

On behalf of my clients, I have filed two complaints against NY-barred lawyers.*

The first was against an attorney who refused to turn over a client file because the client had not paid money allegedly owed to him.* Refusing to turn over a file is not allowed under the Rules of Professional Conduct.* After I filed the complaint, the attorney responded to Bar Counsel and threatened me with a frivolous bar complaint for the "tone" of my phone conversation and letter to him.* Threatening a frivolous complaint is not allowed either.* Nevertheless, the NY Bar saw fit to dismiss my complaint.

The second complaint did not even get that far, and was dismissed out of hand.* In that case, my client received a decision from the BIA (she lost) and the lawyer failed to inform the client-for over one year.* As you might imagine, not knowing that her case was denied caused problems for my client.* The Bar Association's response to our complaint:

After careful review, it has been determined that the issues you raise are more appropriate for resolution by the Board of Immigration Appeals in the first instance [we had also filed a motion to reopen with the BIA, but they are not responsible for attorney discipline].* Therefore, although we appreciate your effort, we are unable to assist you.

How nice that they appreciate our effort.* Further, we did not file the complaint so that the Bar Association could "assist us."* We filed the complaint because the attorney violated her duty to inform my client about the result of the appeal, and because such a complaint is required to reopen the immigration case.* If she did this to our client, likely she has done it to others.* The Bar Association should be as concerned (or more concerned) about protecting potential future victims of this attorney than it is about "assisting" my client.* But obviously, they do not care about my client or about any potential future victims.*

To their credit, the Bar Association did an excellent job of protecting the incompetent lawyer.* They did not even require her to make a response to our complaint.* Thank goodness that the attorney was not inconvenienced by having to spend time explaining her bad conduct.* Better, she should use that time to rip off other immigrants.** With all the money she makes, I hope she remembers to bay her bar dues-she certainly owes them for protecting her.*

Despite my annoyance at the general failure of the New York Bar to protect immigrants, there are some resources available.* You can contact the Attorney Grievance Committees.* You can also contact the Immigrant Affairs Program of the District Attorney's Office for the City of New York.* For the sake of future immigrant (and non-immigrant) victims, we can only hope that the NY Bar Association will one day recognize its responsibility to protect the public, and not just its own members.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: