A state appellate court has suspended Goshen attorney Daren Allen Webber from practicing law indefinitely, following a similar ruling in federal court based on allegations of unprofessional conduct in bankruptcy cases.
Last year, U.S. District Court suspended Webber from practicing law for missing filing deadlines, missing meetings, filing documents in the wrong places and making false advertising.
“In short,” the federal court ruled, Webber had “exhibited gross incompetence and negligence in his handling of numerous bankruptcy matters.”
“Getting this news is kind of shocking to me,” Webber said in a telephone interview.
He has since moved to West Covina, California, and had not seen the appellate court’s ruling. He said he believes that court officials are biased against him.
In March, he filed a complaint of judicial misconduct against Cecelia G. Morris, chief bankruptcy judge in the Poughkeepsie division.
“It is my sincere and honest belief,” he stated in the complaint filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, that he was “subjected to a form of disparate treatment that has been designed to break my practice and destroy my emotional well-being.”
The state discipline is based on the federal court’s findings last year. The federal court found, for instance, that in 2014 Webber had filed a bankruptcy petition with missing information, failed to appear for a creditors meeting, didn’t tell his clients about his inability to attend the meeting and failed to file a motion to dismiss the case after his clients decided they no longer wanted to proceed.
Also in 2014, he failed to respond to telephone and email communications from the clerk’s office about an error in another bankruptcy petition. Judge Morris then revoked his privileges to file court documents electronically in the district’s bankruptcy courts.
That forced him, he said, to travel from courthouse to courthouse to manually file documents.
In 2015, the Office of the United States Trustee randomly selected two of his cases for audit. Webber failed to provide documents to the auditor for more than a month, according to the disciplinary record.
His law firm’s website displayed the seal of New York University Law School with his credentials, when he had actually attended the similarly named New York Law School.
Last year, federal court directed him to “show cause” why he should not be disciplined. Webber asked for more time, and then failed to respond by the new date.
The federal court suspended him from the practice of law in the district, until further notice. The state appellate court ruling extends that discipline to the state courts.
Webber concluded, according to his misconduct complaint against the judge, that bankruptcy court officials have a bias against him because he is part African-American and the Poughkeepsie court lacks minority attorney representation.
He wondered in the telephone interview if the judge confuses him with a disbarred attorney who has a similar name, “or just doesn’t like me.”
He claimed the court has failed to properly docket his pleadings and has subjected him to several “random” audits. He said a photo of him was posted in the White Plains federal courthouse, as if he were a wanted person, and nobody would explain why it was there. When he demanded that the photo be taken down, he claimed, he was told “that judge really does not like you.”
“I am not claiming that I walk on water,” Webber said in the telephone interview. “I am not claiming I’m perfect.
“I am claiming that there were events that occurred that are difficult to explain.”