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License suspension for employing disbarred lawyer as ‘paralegal’

A New York state lawyer’s license has been suspended for two years due to relying on the expertise of a disbarred lawyer, whom he employed as a “paralegal.” The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, in a January 28 decision, ruled that practitioner, Dean Gary Weber acted imprudently when he hired disbarred lawyer Craig Heller, a friend from law school.

Heller was disbarred in June of 2010 for a felony conviction of grand larceny, in which Heller stole over $50,000. Heller was sentenced to a month in jail and five years’ probation, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $104,108.

Weber claimed that Heller was merely working for pay as a paralegal and that the scope of his work did not go beyond the limits concomitant to such work.

However, the court disagreed. It cited facts, such as Heller assuming a different name when he interacted with clients and making improper solicitations to clients.

Further, the court found reason to believe that Weber relied on Heller’s expertise as a law practitioner and that Heller was indeed “continuing to practice law.”

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