Judge Castel
Judge Castel (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)

The removal of defense attorney Ivan Fisher from the rolls in the Southern District has been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Fisher was first suspended in 2012 and the removed from the rolls in 2013 by the Southern District Committee on Grievances, chaired by Judge P. Kevin Castel (See Profile), for using $180,000 he was supposed to be holding in escrow for a client’s restitution for personal purposes.

Represented by David Lewis of Lewis & Fiore, Fisher appealed to the Second Circuit, where attorney Shawn Patrick Regan of Hunton & Williams defended the committee’s finding on June 17.

Lewis told the court that Fisher had been in ill health and had many surgeries during the time in question that affected his law practice, that his behavior was “aberrant” and that he lacked the “venal intent” needed to justify a finding under DR-1-102(A)(4)—the prohibition on lawyers engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

But in a per curium opinion, Judges Barrington Parker (See Profile), Denny Chin (See Profile) and Raymond Lohier (See Profile) said there was evidence to support the intent found by the committee, and that Fisher had failed to meet the high standard of showing an abuse of discretion by the committee.

The circuit, like the committee below, also took note of Fisher’s 40 years of zealously representing his clients but said, “Even accounting for his long and notable career, during which Fisher’s contributions to his clients and the legal profession were many, we conclude that disbarment was within the range of appropriate punishments.”

Fisher said Friday “I respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling, but I appreciate its sensitivity in addressing the issues we presented.”

The case is Fisher v. Committee on Grievances for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 13-1272-cv.