Akwesasne Longhouse’s lawyer filed for bankruptcy, accused of ‘malpractice’ in California



(New York City lawyer Scott Michael Moore. APTN/File Photo)

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A New York City lawyer hired by the Kanienkehaka Longhouse in Akwesasne to handle a casino case filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and faced allegations of “malpractice” in California over his handling of a family estate dispute involving waterfront property on an island in Honduras.

Scott Michael Moore was initially retained by the Kanienkehaka Longhouse, one of two in Akwesasne, to represent three of five men facing a two-count Grand Jury indictment for allegedly operating an illegal casino in Akwesasne.

A U.S. Magistrate Judge, however, removed Moore from the case Tuesday ruling he was in a conflict of interest and couldn’t continue.

Moore told the court he would be appealing the decision.

Despite repeated calls to his cell phone and office phone, Moore could not be reached for comment.

The Longhouse Men’s Council issued a statement saying it stood behind Moore, despite the bankruptcy and past California entanglements.

“Scott Michael Moore is a friend and ally of the Men’s Council, in addition to his being the counsel to this defense in this legal proceeding,” said the statement signed by Chaz Kader, Turtle Clan, Men’s Council clerk. “If attorney Moore has had some professional setbacks, well that is proof that he is still human, just like the rest of us. He has no judicial misconducts that we could find proof of that resulted in professional censure.”

The statement said Moore’s bankruptcy filing was “a sign of the times” and that it made him “well suited” to represent the defendants in the case.

“He is not in it for the fee, he is in it for the fight,” said the statement.

The Longhouse’s decision to have Moore represent Karenahtiio, known to authorities as Roger Jock, Rarahkwisere, known to authorities as Thomas Square, and Sakoieta, known to authorities as James Gray, has run into hurdles in the opening stages of the case stemming from a raid this past December of the Three Feathers Casino, which now sits shuttered on Hwy 37, on the U.S. side of Akwesasne.

The Longhouse launched the casino after obtaining legal advice from Moore who suggested in a 2010 letter that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and previous treaties were enough to allow Three Feathers to operate as a legal enterprise without the need for federal or state involvement.

The appearance of the letter could potentially draw Moore in as part of the case. It was among a number of conflict-of-interest issues against Moore raised by Elizabeth Horsman, the Assistant U.S. Attorney handling the case. Horsman’s concerns triggered two recent hearings this month held at the Clinton County Jail in Plattsburgh, NY, for security reasons.

Moore was tossed from the case by Judge Larry Kudrle, after Rarahkwisere, who has chosen to represent himself, refused to waive conflict-of-interest and confidentiality issues arising from his previous lawyer-client interactions with the New York City lawyer, whose office address is listed at 45 Rockefeller Plaza.

Brian Barrett, a lawyer from Lake Placid, NY, who had acted as a co-counsel for Karenahtiio and represented Rarahkwisere at his arraignment, was also caught up in the ruling.

Moore, however, recently battled allegations he illegally practiced law in California and declared bankruptcy in the midst of a civil case launched against him in state court.

The allegations against Moore were launched by a former client named Nicholas Parker. Parker claimed that, despite pocketing about $150,000, Moore mishandled a case involving a dispute between brothers over a 16.5-acre piece of property on the island of Guanaja, in Honduras. The property was part of a will left by the mother.

Parker alleged Moore never obtained a license to practice law in California, despite setting up shop in San Francisco and advertising his services in the realm of corporate business, mediation, immigration and “international law,” according to the March 14, 2008, complaint filed with California State Superior Court.

None of the allegations against Moore have ever been proven in court.

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While fighting the California civil case against Parker, Moore filed for bankruptcy with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York on April 2008.

The move essentially neutralized the California civil case because it added a layer of complexity around whether the claim against Moore would survive the bankruptcy. In his bankruptcy filing, Moore claimed to be facing $690, 137 in secured and unsecured claims while holding only $390,000 worth of assets. The Parker case is listed as a potential $151,000 “unsecured non-priority claim” in his filing.

Parker’s Los Angeles-based lawyer Neil Gieleghem filed complaints against Moore with the Deputy District Attorney for San Francisco County and the California State Bar.

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Neither office took any action against Moore.

According to the complaint filed in California court, Moore allegedly “concocted” a legal strategy that led to a lawsuit in Florida U.S. federal court “in part because (Moore) was not admitted to practice in the Honduran courts and thus could not charge (Parker) legal fees for representing him in such a local action.”

By the time Parker severed his ties with Moore in March 2007, he had allegedly spent $151, 453 in legal and was no closer to obtaining the property. Parker claimed he only obtained a judgement in Florida against his brother who “had no assets and was judgement proof.” The brother, Bayard Parker, eventually died, according to the complaint.

The Honduran waterfront property was also sold to a third-party buyer while Moore was handling the case, the complaint alleges.

Moore fought Parker’s claim by trying to have it punted in U.S. federal court, but the move failed.

In his filing with U.S. federal court in California, Moore claimed he represented both Parker and another brother named John Parker and won a judgement against Bayard Parker in the Florida case that totalled over $500,000. The filing also claimed that at the time Nicholas Parker launched his claim, Moore was based out of New York State, where he is licensed.

“None of the defendants maintained an office in the State of California on the 14th of March, 2008, stated Moore’s federal court filing.

The Three Feathers Casino trial continues on May 13, in Albany, NY.

jbarrera@aptn.ca

@JorgeBarrera

 

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