The Volokh Conspiracy

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"Respondent [Lawyer] Impersonated Others, Falsely Accused a Coworker of Poor Job Performance,

and falsely accused the coworker's husband of workplace sexual harassment."


From In re Shin, decided Thursday by the New York intermediate appellate court:

Respondent Haelee H. Shin was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the First Judicial Department on July 18, 2016, under the name Haelee Helen Shin….

In March 2021, the Attorney Grievance Committee (AGC) filed a Petition of Charges alleging that, in 2018, respondent impersonated others, falsely accused a coworker of poor job performance, and falsely accused the coworker's husband of workplace sexual harassment….

Shin agreed that the following were the facts:

Complainant R.C. and respondent were coworkers from December 2016 until January 2019. Respondent and R.C., who occupied adjacent cubicles, had an acrimonious relationship while working together. On May 11, 2018, respondent impersonated a vendor and sent an email to their employer falsely complaining about R.C.'s unsatisfactory customer service. To do so, respondent created a fictious email account using the vendor's name.

On May 16, 2018, respondent pretended to be an employee at R.C.'s husband's workplace by sending an anonymous letter to the company's Human Resources Department falsely accusing him of workplace sexual harassment. On June 8, 2018, respondent used the previously mentioned sham email address and left a review about R.C. on a legal website, under the guise of the aforementioned vendor, falsely complaining about the same unsatisfactory customer service about which respondent had complained to their employer several weeks prior. Shortly thereafter, R.C., with the help of her supervisors, who by this point were already aware that someone impersonating a vendor was making false accusations against R.C., formally disputed her review with the website.

As such, on June 25, 2018, the website asked respondent to verify whether the content of her review was true, and she did so, still posing as the purportedly aggrieved vendor. In January 2019, respondent left her position and immediately began a non-legal position with another employer. In April 2020, respondent was internally promoted to another non-legal position, and remains in that role to date….

The parties have stipulated to the following aggravation: respondent engaged in this misconduct with the intent of harming R.C. and her family; she engaged in a pattern of misconduct that occurred in four separate instances spanning over six weeks in time; and she fully accepted responsibility for her misconduct but only after the AGC's investigation had commenced. Respondent has not yet apologized to R.C. Although respondent alleged that she has been unable to apologize for her misconduct because R.C. allegedly refused to meet with her, respondent could have apologized in writing and has not done so.

The parties have stipulated to the following mitigation: respondent was a recently admitted attorney at the time of the events at issue; she has no prior disciplinary history; her misconduct did not adversely impact any client matters; and she is no longer engaged in the practice of law. Respondent fully cooperated with the AGC's investigation, and she was dealing with very difficult personal issues at the time she committed the misconduct at issue. Respondent voluntarily participated in the New York City Bar's Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) because of her mental health issues and has meticulously kept her appointments. The parties have included a September 11, 2020 letter from LAP evidencing her commitment to address her issues and her positive progress.

The punishment: a three-month suspension, as agreed by the parties. "They argue that, while there are no cases directly on point, the requested sanction is supported by comparable circumstances involving forgery and deception." The court agreed.