Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse at 40 Foley Square
Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse at 40 Foley Square (Bjoertvedt/Wikimedia)

Repeated defaults in the cases of two different clients has brought an attorney a public reprimand and a two-year ban from practicing as Criminal Justice Act counsel before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The decision came less than two years after the circuit privately reprimanded Albany attorney Gaspar Castillo for numerous defaults on a separate criminal appeal.

Castillo, who has been with the state bar since 1981 and Second Circuit bar since 1983, ran into trouble in United States v. Morgan, 12-3231, where he had a number of defaults that led the Second Circuit to remove him from the case of Steven Ray Morgan, who had been sentenced to serve 20 years in prison in the Northern District on guns and narcotics charges.

The circuit appointed a new lawyer, Jane Simkin Smith, who persuaded Judges Dennis Jacobs, Guido Calabresi and Wesley that Northern District Judge Thomas McAvoy erred when he allowed into the trial death threats Morgan made against a government informant.

The panel vacated Morgan’s conviction (NYLJ, May 20, 2015). Morgan, with a different lawyer, was convicted on five counts in a retrial in January and will be sentenced in June.

Jacobs, Calabresi and Wesley privately reprimanded Castillo over defaults in the Morgan case, which they made public Tuesday in the second case United States v. Morales, 15-438.

The panel noted Castillo’s failure to file documents in a timely manner on a number of occasions and the failure to cure that defect or respond to inquiries from the clerk’s office.

For example, the notice of appeal in Morales was filed on Feb. 17, 2015 and the appellant’s acknowledge and appearance form was due March 4, 2015, but was never filed. With the court on the verge of dismissing the appeal, it was finally filed on April 12, 2015.

In both Morgan and Morales, Castillo also failed to respond to the order to show cause in a timely manner.

Discussing the Morgan case, the Morales panel said, “By defaulting on numerous occasions in that appeal, Castillo put his client at serious risk of prejudice, wasted the time of court employees and judges, delayed the processing of other appellants’ cases, and caused unnecessary expense to the public.”

Defendant Hector “Boo” Morales is facing 30 years in prison after being convicted before Northern District Judge Gary Sharpe of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine and cocaine base.

Here, Cabranes, Sack and Wesley ordered Castillo in October 2015 to show cause why he should not be disciplined for misconduct after defaulting on a number of occasions and failing to respond to numerous calls from the clerks’ office.

The judges said the attorney, in his response, “acknowledged his defaults in Morales and stated that he accepted responsibility, had no excuse, and was extremely remorseful.”

He also told the circuit, without elaboration, that he was dealing with personal issues distracting him from the job and that he was in the process of hiring an assistant to help him with time and schedule management.

But the panel said Castillo has yet to cure the default noted in the October 2015 order to show cause. The panel also said the attorney had taken a long time to resolve a default in a third, unrelated case.

The judges said Castillo’s “assertions about technology and personal issues that have caused stress and distraction are conclusory and entitled to no weight.”

“Ignoring this court’s orders and requests, and assuming the court will forgive all defaults, is not an option,” they said.

The panel found at least two significant aggravating factors—that Castillo already had been privately reprimanded for the same behavior and that the “misconduct occurred in criminal appeals, where important liberty interests are at stake.”

The defaults in both cases “put his clients at serious risk of severe prejudice,” including the possibility their appeals could be dismissed.

As both cases involved appointments under the Criminal Justice Act, the circuit’s two-year ban applies only to appeals in cases where Castillo was appointed under the act. The panel made clear the order does not apply to Criminal Justice Act appointments in the district courts “and should not be perceived” as requiring reciprocal discipline.

Castillo did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Repeated defaults in the cases of two different clients has brought an attorney a public reprimand and a two-year ban from practicing as Criminal Justice Act counsel before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The decision came less than two years after the circuit privately reprimanded Albany attorney Gaspar Castillo for numerous defaults on a separate criminal appeal.

Castillo, who has been with the state bar since 1981 and Second Circuit bar since 1983, ran into trouble in United States v. Morgan, 12-3231, where he had a number of defaults that led the Second Circuit to remove him from the case of Steven Ray Morgan, who had been sentenced to serve 20 years in prison in the Northern District on guns and narcotics charges.

The circuit appointed a new lawyer, Jane Simkin Smith, who persuaded Judges Dennis Jacobs, Guido Calabresi and Wesley that Northern District Judge Thomas McAvoy erred when he allowed into the trial death threats Morgan made against a government informant.

The panel vacated Morgan’s conviction (NYLJ, May 20, 2015). Morgan, with a different lawyer, was convicted on five counts in a retrial in January and will be sentenced in June.

Jacobs, Calabresi and Wesley privately reprimanded Castillo over defaults in the Morgan case, which they made public Tuesday in the second case United States v. Morales, 15-438.

The panel noted Castillo’s failure to file documents in a timely manner on a number of occasions and the failure to cure that defect or respond to inquiries from the clerk’s office.

For example, the notice of appeal in Morales was filed on Feb. 17, 2015 and the appellant’s acknowledge and appearance form was due March 4, 2015, but was never filed. With the court on the verge of dismissing the appeal, it was finally filed on April 12, 2015.

In both Morgan and Morales, Castillo also failed to respond to the order to show cause in a timely manner.

Discussing the Morgan case, the Morales panel said, “By defaulting on numerous occasions in that appeal, Castillo put his client at serious risk of prejudice, wasted the time of court employees and judges, delayed the processing of other appellants’ cases, and caused unnecessary expense to the public.”

Defendant Hector “Boo” Morales is facing 30 years in prison after being convicted before Northern District Judge Gary Sharpe of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine and cocaine base.

Here, Cabranes, Sack and Wesley ordered Castillo in October 2015 to show cause why he should not be disciplined for misconduct after defaulting on a number of occasions and failing to respond to numerous calls from the clerks’ office.

The judges said the attorney, in his response, “acknowledged his defaults in Morales and stated that he accepted responsibility, had no excuse, and was extremely remorseful.”

He also told the circuit, without elaboration, that he was dealing with personal issues distracting him from the job and that he was in the process of hiring an assistant to help him with time and schedule management.

But the panel said Castillo has yet to cure the default noted in the October 2015 order to show cause. The panel also said the attorney had taken a long time to resolve a default in a third, unrelated case.

The judges said Castillo’s “assertions about technology and personal issues that have caused stress and distraction are conclusory and entitled to no weight.”

“Ignoring this court’s orders and requests, and assuming the court will forgive all defaults, is not an option,” they said.

The panel found at least two significant aggravating factors—that Castillo already had been privately reprimanded for the same behavior and that the “misconduct occurred in criminal appeals, where important liberty interests are at stake.”

The defaults in both cases “put his clients at serious risk of severe prejudice,” including the possibility their appeals could be dismissed.

As both cases involved appointments under the Criminal Justice Act, the circuit’s two-year ban applies only to appeals in cases where Castillo was appointed under the act. The panel made clear the order does not apply to Criminal Justice Act appointments in the district courts “and should not be perceived” as requiring reciprocal discipline.

Castillo did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.