A Brooklyn attorney has been disbarred by an appellate panel that agreed with a special referee that the lawyer was "morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt."
The Appellate Division, Second Department, disbarred Gerard Tanella on Jan. 9, affirming all 26 charges of professional misconduct brought against him, finding no mitigating circumstances in his favor, but noting that aggravating factors were "numerous and substantial."
Those factors, the panel said, included Tanella's "complete abdication" of fiduciary duties, his "serial neglect" of legal matters, his "false testimony" to the grievance committee and his "deceiving" of clients and third parties. The factors also included his fabrication of court documents and his alleged participation, or at least "failure to extricate himself," from an enterprise attempting to defraud insurance companies.
"The severe and gross violations committed by the respondent fully merit the Special Referee's conclusion that the respondent is 'morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt,'" the panel wrote in Matter of Tanella, 2010-11445.
Tanella, a graduate of Quinnipiac University School of Law admitted to the bar in 2003 who says he suffers from cerebral palsy, represented himself before the panel. He could not be reached for comment.
The professional misconduct charges against him, filed in December 2010, included conduct involving "dishonesty, deceit, fraud and/or misrepresentation," "false and/or misleading" testimony before the grievance committee, sharing of legal fees with non-attorneys, breach of fiduciary duty and failure to maintain bookkeeping records.
For example, Tanella allegedly told a client and the client's mother that Allstate Insurance offered $140,000 to settle a personal injury suit he purportedly filed on behalf of the client. But no suit was filed and no settlement offer was made.
Tanella subsequently fabricated a civil court decision, which he gave to his client, that directed the company to pay the "agreed settlement."
In another case, Tanella was retained by a client for a claim against a Long Island car dealership. About a year later, he allegedly told the client the matter "settled out of court" for $40,000, but Tanella never participated in settlement talks.