In the Matter of Steven L. Holley

285 A.D.2d 216, 729 N.Y.S.2d 128 (2001)

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In the Matter of Steven L. Holley

New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
285 A.D.2d 216, 729 N.Y.S.2d 128 (2001)

Facts

Steven Holley was a litigation partner at a large, prominent law firm. Holley represented multiple high-profile clients. While representing a large bank in litigation, Holley obtained a copy of sealed court documents. Although the documents were sealed, Holley released a copy of them to a legal reporter. The reporter published an article based on the documents. When this leak came to light, Holley denied to the court that the reporter had alerted him to the fact that the documents were sealed. Holley claimed that he only later learned of the documents’ sealed status. This claim was false and led to proceedings against Holley for committing professional misconduct by improperly disclosing sealed court documents and then falsely denying that he knew the documents were sealed. The proceedings led a referee to find that Holley had acted recklessly and to recommend a public censure against Holley. A hearing panel then agreed with this recommendation, although the panel found that Holley had acted only negligently in failing to perform an inquiry into the nature of the documents. Holley appealed, challenging the public-censure recommendation. Holley argued that mitigating circumstances, as well as the lack of any injury to persons involved in the situation, indicated that a public censure was not necessary. Holley also noted that he had a good reputation and argued that a public censure would be punitive and would prejudice his ability to practice law in other jurisdictions.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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