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Buffalo attorney suspended for multiple counts of misconduct

A Buffalo attorney was suspended from practicing law for three years after the Grievance Committee of the Eighth Judicial District found her guilty of five charges of misconduct.

LaTasha D. Crutcher began practicing law in 2013, according to an Appellate Division filing. By September 2016, she was accused of misrepresenting herself to Pennsylvania prison officials in order to visit an inmate, failing to stay in contact with clients about their cases and not cooperating with the Grievance Committee when it was investigating the accusations.

According to the ruling ordering the suspension, Crutcher was retained in 2014 to represent a defendant facing extradition to Pennsylvania. In May 2016, Crutcher reportedly told an official at the Pennsylvania prison where the man was being held that she had to meet with the inmate to get a witness list, and that the inmate's Pennsylvania attorney couldn’t be there due to a family emergency.

However, by that time a complaint had already been filed against Crutcher “based upon her alleged conduct during a prior visit to the prison,” the filing says.

Crutcher “told the prison official that the ‘New York State Bar Association’ had cleared her of all wrongdoing in relation to the prior visit” — which was not true. She also said she had judicial permission to meet with the inmate, which also was not true.

Regarding the other complaints against Crutcher, in 2015 two clients complained that she had stopped responding to them about their cases. It turned out that, in one case, Crutcher determined the client had no legal standing to move forward and simply stopped working on the matter without telling her client. The investigation also found that, after she stopped representing the clients, Crutcher refused to return documents from their legal files.

The investigation also found that Crutcher mishandled her attorney trust account, issuing checks and debit transfers without sufficient funds to cover them and moving money into her personal account, and not producing required bookkeeping records for her law practice.

Crutcher also did not respond to multiple inquiries by the Grievance Committee regarding the complaints.

Crutcher eventually testified that she was suffering from mental health issues when the misconduct occurred but had nothing to document it.

The attorney’s problems were compounded in July 2016, when she was arrested while driving without a license and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle because she had two outstanding scofflaw violations.

She was allowed to plead to lesser parking violations, but even then she didn’t pay the required fine or resolve the scofflaw matters.

The suspension documents did not mention that a woman by the same name was arrested April 7 at a prison in Forest County, Pennsylvania, and charged with trying to deliver contraband to an inmate there. According to a Pennsylvania news account of the arrest, Latasha Debra-Danita Crutcher of Buffalo was stopped when she tried to hand a drink bottle to the inmate. The bottle allegedly contained a purple balloon holding about one gram of synthetic marijuana.

Altogether Crutcher was found by the Grievance Committee to have violated 17 separate rules of conduct.

While the judicial panel suspended Crutcher’s right to practice law for three years, it added that, before she could apply for reinstatement, she would have to “sufficiently explain the circumstances of her default” for her petition to be considered.

The Facebook and website pages for Crutcher’s law practice are no longer available and the phone number for the law practice is no longer accepting calls.

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