Dear Mr. Gironza:
Enclosed please find an answer to your recent complaint against the above-named attorney, if you disagree with the attorney’s statement, please write us, specifying how and why and include any documents substantiating your position. Also, please tell us what has happened in regard to this matter since the time you filed your complaint.
If we do not hear from you within twenty (20) days, we may conclude that you agree with the attorney’s statement.
All correspondence and inquiries concerning this matter should be addressed to the undersigned. Please be sure to include the Committee’s docket number on your correspondence.
I am the Respondent in the above-referenced matter. I am represented by Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP.
My attorney has signed the answer on my behalf. However, I have read it, it is my answer, and the facts in it are true to the best of my knowledge.
We represent Peter Cedeno, the respondent in the above-referenced matter. We write in response to the above referenced Complaint (the “Complaint) submitted by Luis Gironza, a former coworker and, in 2010, a client of Mr. Cedeno.1
In the Complaint, Mr. Gironza alleges, inter alia, that Mr. Cedeno “coerced” him into agreeing to an “extraordinarily unfavorable settlement arrangement” in his child support dispute with his former wife because Mr. Cedeno was “attempt[ing] to engage [Mr. Gironza’s wife] in a sexual relationship.”
The Complaint is devoid of any evidence to support either of these allegations. Mr. Cedeno denies that the stipulation Mr. Gironza and his wife signed six years ago was “extraordinarily unfavorable” to Mr. Gironza or that he coerced Mr. Gironza’s former wife, and never attempted to engage in one.
In or about mid-2010, while Mr. Cedeno was a partner at Wilens and Baker, P.C., he was asked by the senior partner at the firm to represent one of the firm’s paralegals, complainant Luis Gironza, in a child support matter for no charge. Mr. Cedeno agreed.2
Mr. Cedeno then met with Mr. Gironza, who informed Mr. Cedeno that he and his wife were no longer living together and that she had filed a petition for child support for their children. Mr. Gironza’s wife had not, however, filed for divorce. Peter L. Cedeno explained to Mr. Gironza that the amount/calculation of child support to be ordered by the court is statutory and would be based primarily on the parties’ income and the amount of time each parent had the children; he also informed Mr. Gironza that usually the most efficient way of resolving child support disputes is via stipulation. Mr. Gironza indicated that he understood, and agreed.
In mid-to-late 2010, Mr. Cedeno attended a court appearance for Mr. Gironza’s child support matter. Mr. Gironza’s wife appeared pro se.3 Either during or immediately after the court appearance (while still at the courthouse), Mr. Cedeno spoke with Mr. Gironza’s wife and discussed potentially entering into a stipulation concerning child support;4 he explained to her, generally, that the amount/calculation of child support is statutory, and that, if possible, Mr. Gironza wished to stipulate to child support in order to resolve that issue. Mr. Cedeno never told Mr. Gironza’s wife that “he would ‘take care of her'” or that he would “obtain a ‘great deal’ for her as a result of the negotiations,” as the Complaint alleges.
Before leaving the courthouse, Mr. Cedeno provided Mr. Gironza’s wife with his contact information so that they could negotiate and, potentially, prepare a stipulation concerning child support. As he does with all of his clients and most opposing counsel and pro se litigants, he informed her that she could contact him using his office phone or cell phone,5 and he provided her with both numbers. He also stated that if she preferred to contact him electronically, she could do that as well (specifically via email, Facebook6
LinkedIn or text).7 Mr. Cedeno denies that he ever “attempted to secure a romantic dinner date with [Mr. Gironza’s wife] in Queens,” as the Complaint alleges.
Subsequent to the court appearance, Mr. Cedeno had some brief discussions over the phone with Mr. Gironza’s wife (he does not remember how many discussions or anything specific they discussed), who was still acting pro se, about the details of a stipulation settling the child support matter. Eventually, Mr. Gironza and his wife reached an agreement for child support and each signed a stipulation establishing the terms.
Mr. Cedeno does not recall the amount the parties negotiated that Mr. Gironza would pay his wife in child support; however, upon information and belief, Mr. Gironza had informed Mr. Cedeno that he wanted to pay his wife either nothing or a smaller amount than they had discussed. Mr. Cedelio again explained to Mr. Gironza that the amount/calculation of support was set by statute, and that Mr. Gironza would be ordered to pay his wife because she had residential custody of the children and also, to the best of Mr. Cedeno’s recollection, because Mr. Gironza had a higher income than his wife.
Mr. Cedeno does not remember if he appeared in court a second time to submit the stipulation, and does not recall if Mr. Gironza or his wife attended a second appearance. To the best of Mr. Cedeno’s recollection, the settlement arrangement was in no way “extraordinarily unfavorable” to Mr. Gironza.
Mr. Cedeno made no further attempts to communicate with Mr. Gironza’s wife.
In October of 2010, Mr. Cedeno left Wilens and Baker to establish his own practice. Julio Portilla, another attorney at Wilens and Baker, left at approximately the same time. Mr. Cedeno and Mr. Portilla are not partners and do not practice together, but they did have offices in the same suite and shared a secretary.8
Upon information and belief, Mr. Gironza’s wife filed for divorce in December of 2010, approximately two months after Mr. Cedeno left Wilens and Baker. Mr. Cedeno did not represent Mr. Gironza in the divorce proceeding and was not involved in it in any way.
In or about 2012, Mr. Gironza’s wife called Mr. Cedeno’s secretary and set up an appointment for an initial consultation. When Mr. Gironza’s wife came to Mr. Cedeno’s office to meet with him, Mr. Cedeno did not recognize her. However, when she mentioned her last name (and her husband’s name), Mr. Cedeno immediately remembered Mr. Gironza and informed her that he could not represent her.
Mr. Gironza’s wife asked Mr. Cedeno if he and Mr. Portilla were partners, and mentioned that she knew they previously worked together at Wilens and Baker. (It is unclear how she knew that, either through the internet,9 from prior discussions with her husband, or through some other means). Mr. Cedeno informed her that they were not partners, and told her to speak with the receptionist if she wanted to meet with Mr. Portilla; the receptionist introduced them shortly thereafter, and Mr. Gironza’s wife retained Mr. Portilla.
After Mr. Cedeno introduced Mr. Gironza’s wife to Mr. Portilla, Mr. Cedeno had no further contact with her, and he performed no work for her. Mr. Cedeno did not discuss the case with Mr. Portilla,9 and Mr. Cedeno denies that he “was effectively representing [Mr. Gironza’s wife] at the time of the 2012 Court Appearance [and that] Mr. Portilla was representing her in name only in order to avoid a disqualifying conflict of interest,” as the Complaint alleges.
Mr. Cedeno denies that he coerced Mr. Gironza in any way to enter into an allegedly unfavorable settlement agreement, which Mr. Gironza signed approximately six years ago. The Complaint itself does not describe any coercion whatsoever.
Mr. Cedeno denies that he had or pursued a romantic or sexual relationship with Mr. Gironza’s wife. The Complaint itself does not cite any evidence supporting Mr. Gironza’s allegations.
The Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety.