[Editor’s Note: For several years, the O’Connell & Aronowitz law firm represented Clare and Sara Bronfman-Igtet – and the NXIVM cult that did business under the name Executive Success Programs (ESP). Along the way, three of its senior attorneys – Stephen R. Coffey, Michael P. McDermott, and Pamela A. Nichols – advocated very aggressively on behalf of their clients. Here, Joe O’Hara is asking the O’Connell & Aronowitz law firm to respond to questions concerning some hypothetical scenarios so that we can all understand the norms and standards this law firm follows in its practice of law. Any responses that are received from the law firm will be reprinted word-for-word without any editing and/or editorializing].
By: Joe O’Hara
I know that most law firms don’t usually answer legal questions unless they’re getting paid to do so.
But I’m hoping that the O’Connell & Aronowitz law firm in Albany, NY might be willing to consider answering the following questions as a matter of public service.
If not, then maybe the FBI agents who have been investigating NXIVM could pose these same questions to some of the members of that firm.
Lots of Attorneys Available to Answer Questions
Before we get to my questions, let’s take a look at all the attorneys who work at the O&A law firm. Surely, with all this legal talent, there’s got to be someone there who can answer a few questions.
The listed “shareholders” in the firm are as follows:
– William F. Berglund
– Kurt E. Bratten
– Stephen R. Coffey
– Thomas J. DiNovo
– Matthew J. Dorsey
– Danielle E. Holley
– Scott W. Iseman
– Matthew Jackson
– Robert J. Koshgarian
– Michael P. McDermott
– Brittany M. McMahon
– Kelly J. Mikullitz
– Cornelius D. Murray
– Pamela A. Nichols
– Jami Durante Rogowski
– David R. Ross
– Jeffrey J. Sherrin
– Jeffrey A. Siegel
– George R. Slingerland
– Fred B. Wander
These are the folks who are listed as “Of Counsel” members of the firm:
– Roland M. Cavalier
– Christina Commisso
– Paul A. Feigenbaum
– Richard S. Harrow
– Arthur A. Pasquariello
– Florence M. Richardson
– Meredith H. Savitt
– Daniel J. Tuczinski
– Karen Martino Valle
– Graig F. Zappia
And these are all the listed “Associates” at the firm:
– Courtney L. Alpert
– Mary T. Connolly
– Michael Y. Hawrylchak
– Chad A. Jerome
– Andrew Ko
– Julia V. Kosineski
[NOTE TO ALBANY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY P. DAVID SOARES: REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU MAY BE TOLD BY MEMBERS OF THE O’CONNELL & ARONOWITZ LAW FIRM – AND REGARDLESS OF WHAT AFFIDAVITS MAY BE SUBMITTED TO YOUR OFFICE – PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT I DID NOT HACK INTO THE LAW FIRM’S WEBSITE TO OBTAIN THE NAMES OF ITS MEMBERS (I THOUGHT ABOUT PUBLISHING THE PICTURES OF ALL THE ATTORNEYS WHO WORK FOR THIS EXTREMELY LILY-WHITE LAW FIRM BUT I DID NOT DO SO BECAUSE I WAS FAIRLY CERTAIN THAT WOULD HAVE LEAD TO SOME SORT OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL CHARGES BEING FILED AGAINST ME). ALSO – EVEN THOUGH I KNOW YOU HAVE A VERY LIBERAL INTERPRETATION OF WHAT “JURISDICTION” MEANS WHEN IT COMES TO CHARGING PEOPLE WITH CRIMES – PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAVE NOT BEEN IN ALBANY COUNTY FOR ALMOST SIX YEARS – AND DO NOT PLAN TO RETURN AS LONG AS YOU’RE THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY THERE].
“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no fibs” – Oliver Goldsmith, “She Stoops to Conquer”
So, here are my questions.
(1) How far can attorneys go in representing clients who are engaged in illegal activities before the attorneys become co-conspirators in those activities?
Let me give you a hypothetical scenario you can use to formulate your answer: I know this would never happen in real life but let’s suppose you had a client who wanted to obtain the bank records of federal judges, elected officials, and private citizens that your client considered to be their enemies. Would you help the client obtain those records – or would you advise them against doing so? Also, would you accompany your client to review the bank records that were obtained in order to be sure that they’re authentic?
(2) How should a lawyer handle a client who has a proven history of perjury?
Once again, let me give you a hypothetical scenario that you can use to formulate your answer: As totally improbable as this scenario may be, let’s suppose you have a client who is extremely wealthy but who has a documented history of committing perjury – both in legal filings and in testimony that was given under oath (I know such things don’t happen in real life but I’m just creating a hypothetical situation so that I can ask my question). Would you have that client provide a false narrative to a New York State Police (NYSP) Investigator in order to encourage the Investigator to initiate a criminal investigation against people that your client considers to be enemies? Also, would you accompany your client to meetings with the NYSP Investigator in order to provide more gravitas to her statements even though you knew – or had reason to know – that your client was lying about what happened?
(3) How far can a lawyer go before what started out as “representation” turns into “participation”?
And, once again, let me give you another hypothetical scenario that you can use to formulate your answer. Now, I know this one is really off-the-wall crazy – but let’s say that you have a client who is trying to get criminal charges brought against some of their enemies with regard to activities that happened in one county and the District Attorney for that county decides that no such charges are warranted. Would you use your contacts with the District Attorney in another county to get the same criminal charges brought there even though you are well aware that none of the activities in question took place in that second county? And – bear with me on this really crazy thought – would you even help your client move “evidence” from the first county to the second county in order to cover up the fact that there was no jurisdictional basis for criminal charges to have been brought in the second county?
(4) Can a lawyer work with a consultant their client has hired to track down someone who fled a situation that was potentially life-threatening?
This question is so bizarre that I think it really needs a hypothetical scenario for you to consider before you can answer it. So, let’s say that your client wants to find a woman who fled a domestic situation that was potentially life-threatening to her – but who has no real relationship with your client. Would you work with someone your client had hired to find this woman even though the woman in question may end up dead if she is found? I know it’s a silly scenario that would not likely happen in real life – but let’s just suppose it actually did? What would you do here?
(5) Can a lawyer bail on a client in order to avoid being charged with crimes themselves?
As usual, I’ll give you a hypothetical scenario to help you formulate an answer to my question. As whacko as this one sounds, let’s say that you’re confronted by federal law enforcement officials – and told that you’re the subject of a criminal investigation because it’s believed you aided and abetted one or more of your clients in the commission of crimes. I know it’s hard to imagine yourself in such a situation – but if such a thing ever happened, would you bail on the client who had paid you hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees in order to save your own ass?
Thanks, in advance, O&A for your help and cooperation on these questions.
This is the kind of stuff that makes O&A such a revered law firm throughout the Capital District.