Carlos Perez-Olivo’s disbarment was approved by New York’s Appellate Division last week. The approval came even though the only charges against Perez-Olivo were:
- Taking $20,500 from a client to appeal a conviction and then doing nothing (or not enough) to perfect the appeal, and then refusing to return the money after the appeal was dismissed.
- Refusing to return $10,000 he had been given to post bail for a client arrested in Pennsylvania, and agreeing to represent the client in that state, where he was not licensed to practice law.
- Similarly refusing to return bail money in another case.
- Asking a client to sign a retainer agreement stating that his $10,000 "deposit fee" was non-refundable, "regardless of the time that I spent on this case or if for whatever reason I am removed from the case."
- Being removed from that case for a disqualifying conflict of interest because he sought to represent an alleged co-conspirator in the same matter.
- Refusing to return the $10,000 "deposit fee" in that same case on the grounds that he had spent 23 hours researching the issue of conflicts of interest (and reaching the wrong conclusion, evidently).
- Neglecting a variety of other cases.
- Previously being admonished for similar misconduct in New York, which served as an aggravating factor.
- Previously losing his license to practice in Puerto Rico, which served as an aggravating factor.
- There is more, but I’ve forgotten it.
That is, "There is more, but I’ve forgotten it," the exciting conclusion to Perez-Olivo’s closing argument in the defense of Elio Cruz, a waiter who was on trial in 2004 for shooting his wife’s lover. That’s exactly what somebody on trial for murder wants to hear from his attorney — winding up with the compelling statement, "There is more, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, but I’ve forgotten it. Thank you." This was also disturbing to the jurors, one of whom wrote a note to the judge prior to deliberations to complain about Perez-Olivo and to say that she feared "for anyone else [he] is hired to defend." She was replaced, but Cruz was still convicted.
The Cruz matter was, for some reason, not at issue in the disciplinary proceeding, but apparently the court found sufficient evidence to disbar Perez-Olivo anyway.