Simpson Restructuring Partner Joins Skadden

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has bolstered its New York restructuring practice with a hire from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Kenneth Ziman started work last week at Skadden, where he joined as a partner. Mr. Ziman’s move came without an announcement from Skadden or Simpson, where lateral departures are relatively uncommon. “This was a great opportunity to move to a fabulous firm with an established platform on the company side,” Mr. Ziman said. “It would allow me to broaden my practice to include companies and creditors.”

Mr. Ziman said he spent most of his time at Simpson working the creditor and lender side of bankruptcies and out-of-court restructurings. His interest in debtor- and company-side work evolved more recently as he began “gaining more exposure to it” during the economic collapse, he said. He recently served as lead debtors counsel for Motor Coach Industries in a brief but contentious Chapter 11 case.

Richard Beattie, Simpson chair, did not respond to messages for comment about Mr. Ziman’s move. The addition comes almost a year after Skadden lost a key restructuring partner, D.J. “Jan” Baker, to Latham & Watkins, which viewed the hire as a key step toward building a debtor’s-side bankruptcy practice in New York.

‘Collateral Consequences Calculator’ Is Launched

Columbia Law School has unveiled a Web-based “collateral consequences calculator” to help defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges assess the complex potential consequences to criminal defendants of a guilty plea. The free online calculator was developed by the school’s Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic and the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning. It is an outgrowth of an effort initiated in 2005 by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye to share information about collateral consequences among judges, lawyers and educators.

Users can select any of the top 51 crimes in the state’s Penal Code to examine the impact of a conviction on a defendant’s immigration status or eligibility for New York City public housing. Such information has become more important with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lawyers have a duty to provide accurate advice to their immigrant clients about the possibility of deportation if they plead guilty of a crime (NYLJ, April 1).

Conrad Johnson, the Columbia professor who coordinated development of the calculator, said other consequences could be added if interest warrants. He said the calculator will not provide “ultimate” answers for lawyers, who still must match the material they glean from the site with the particular facts of their cases. But he predicted that ready access to computerized feedback will save attorneys and judges “a ton” of spadework. “There’s simply too much to know, no one can accurately assess the consequences of a conviction in their head,” he said. The calculator is available at http://calculator.law.columbia.edu.

State Bar Warns Lawyers On Crash Privacy Rule

The New York State Bar Association is warning lawyers that they should not try to sign up as clients Staten Island ferry passengers injured in last weekend’s crash until 30 days after the accident. State Bar President Michael Getnick is reminding attorneys they could face sanctions if they violate the professional conduct restriction on soliciting business from accident victims. Mr. Getnick said the rule is important to respect the victims’ privacy. In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the restriction, recognizing that e-mail and other online communications can be just as intrusive as direct mail and are also prohibited. There were some 250 passengers on the ferry when it hit a pier Saturday. Most injuries were minor. The state bar is not saying whether the warning is a response to violations after the crash.

Two Attorneys Among Those Charged in Real Estate Fraud

Two Queens lawyers have been charged with participating in a $3 million real-estate fraud ring. Trevor Rupnarain and Shawn Chand, both Richmond Hill solo practitioners, were among 17 defendants charged by the Queens District Attorney’s Office with defrauding lenders and homeowners in a variety of fraudulent transactions involving 26 refinanced residential properties. In some cases, the conspiracy’s ringleaders allegedly convinced distressed homeowners in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx to put the title to their homes in the names of straw buyers for one year, during which the defendants promised to improve their credit ratings and obtain more favorable mortgages before returning the title. Instead, the group’s leaders held the funds in escrow in order to siphon the proceeds.

Messrs. Rupnarain and Chand allegedly represented many of the lenders, buyers and sellers at closings, hiding the fraud from the clients and distributing the loan proceeds to themselves and various codefendants. Both men were charged with grand larceny, identity theft and falsifying business records, among other crimes, and face 15 years in prison, according to a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. Twelve of the 17 defendants, including Mr. Rupnarain and Mr. Chand, have been arrested and are awaiting arraignment.

Advice Giver Pleads Guilty To Practicing Without License

A man who gave advice to more than a dozen immigrants pleaded guilty yesterday to practicing law without a license. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office began investigating Victor Espinal after several of his clients alerted the Immigrant Affairs Program Hotline (NYLJ, Feb. 25, 2009). According to prosecutors, Mr. Espinal carried business cards identifying him as a lawyer with the “N.Y. Legal Defense Unit,” and said he was licensed to practice in California and the Dominican Republic, even though he has no U.S. law license.

Yesterday, Mr. Espinal pleaded guilty before Acting Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Obus (See Profile) to scheme to defraud in the first degree, third-degree larceny, second-degree forgery and practicing or appearing as an attorney-at-law without being admitted or registered. The judge indicated he would sentence Mr. Espinal to six months in jail and five years probation. Mr. Espinal, who is free on bail pending his July 7 sentencing, also will have to repay some $20,000 in restitution.

Searches in Times Square Bomb Probe Yield 3 Arrests

Two Pakistani men suspected of providing money to Times Square car bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad were arrested by the FBI in a series of morning raids yesterday across the Northeast, law enforcement officials said. The searches in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey were the product of evidence gathered in the investigation into the Times Square bomb attempt two weeks ago, but there was “no known immediate threat to the public or any active plot against the United States,” FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said.

Three people were arrested on suspected immigration violations: the two Pakistani men in the Boston area and one person in Maine, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Brian Hale said. All three arrests are administrative and not criminal, he said. The three were not immediately charged with any terrorism-related offenses. The two Boston-area men had a “direct connection” to Mr. Shahzad, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, said a top Massachusetts law enforcement official. They are believed to have provided money to him, but investigators were not sure whether they were witting accomplices or simply moving funds, as is common among people from the Middle East and Central Asia who live in the United States, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.