NUMBER 324 1934
Question. 1. In the opinion of the Committee, may a lawyer, with propriety, accept professional employment from a real estate corporation which is about to engage in the business of purchasing tax liens at sales by the City of New York for unpaid taxes, water rates, and assessments? The work of the attorney would consist of representing the said client in all steps leading up to and including foreclosure of said liens.
2. Would it be professionally proper for the said attorney to have a financial interest in the said corporation?
3. In the opinion of the Committee, would it be professionally proper for the attorney himself to purchase such tax liens and proceed to enforce the same pursuant to the procedure laid down in such matters?
Answer. The Committee invites the attention of the inquirer to Sections 274, 276, and 280 of the Penal Law of the State of New York, but expresses no opinion upon the construction or application of these statutory provisions, nor whether a corporation may be lawfully formed for the purpose stated. But if it may be so formed and operate without violation of law, in the opinion of the Committee, a lawyer may properly accept employment from the corporation for its legitimate ends. The Committee does not hereby approve the formation or use of the corporation as a cloak for improprieties by the lawyer.
Apart from the fact that the second and third subdivisions of the question are broad enough to contemplate the deliberate instigation by an attorney of litigation, through the purchase and enforcement of tax liens, such purchase by an attorney for the purpose of enforcement tends to open the door, as experience has shown, to such abuses and extortionate practices as bring the profession into disrepute. In the opinion of the Committee, it makes no difference whether the purchase is made directly by the attorney or indirectly through his interest in a corporate purchaser, and the last two subdivisions of the question should be answered in the negative.