A disbarred lawyer can’t prevail on his legal malpractice claim against his counsel from the disciplinary proceedings because raising the argument that he was actually innocent of misconduct would have made no difference, the Second Circuit ruled.
Anthony Zappin hired J. Richard Supple Jr.—then a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP—to defend him when he was accused of misconduct based on actions he took while representing himself in a family law proceeding. Zappin was found to have committed professional misconduct by violating rules against dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, and more.
Zappin then sued Supple and Hinshaw, alleging legal malpractice, breach of contract, and fraud. The lower court dismissed the entire lawsuit.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed that decision on Thursday, rejecting Zappin’s argument that he wouldn’t have been disbarred if his counsel had argued that he was actually innocent of attorney misconduct.
“Raising actual innocence at the sanctions hearing could not have changed the result because the purpose of that hearing was” to look at aggravating and mitigating factors, and not to consider the misconduct itself, the opinion says.
The appeals court further held that Zappin didn’t plausibly allege he wouldn’t have been disbarred.
Defendants are represented by Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. Zappin represented himself.
The case is before Judges John M. Walker Jr., Barrington D. Parker, and Eunice C. Lee.
The case is Zappin v. Supple, 2d Cir., No. 21-02873, 9/15/22.