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Sheldon Silver Disbarred After Corruption Verdict

MANHATTAN (CN) - Convicted of selling his office for millions in bribes, disgraced former New York Assemblyman Sheldon Silver cannot practice law while his appeals process plays out, an appellate court ruled on Tuesday.

Silver resigned as speaker of the New York State Assembly early last year amid allegations that he abused his office - and his law license - to generate roughly $6 million in illicit outside income.

Silver made most of that income on a ceremonial position he once held with Weitz & Luxenberg alone, a firm specializing in mesothelioma injury cases.

In return for lucrative referral fees, Silver supplied the firm with patients of Dr. Robert Taub, a Columbia University physician whose research in turn benefitted from state grant money.

Silver also received tens of thousands of dollars from the state's largest developer Glenwood Management, which wanted his support for affordable-housing initiatives.

Though Silver did not contest that he had these financial relationships, he denied that they represented quid-pro-quo corruption schemes.

Having failed to sway a federal jury in New York that such conflicts of interest were inevitable working in Albany, Silver continues to plead his innocence on appeal.

Until his case hits the Second Circuit, a panel of the New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division said Silver cannot remain a lawyer in good standing.

The five-judge First Department unanimously found Tuesday that to "strike [Silver's] name from the roll of attorneys is a mere formality that serves only to record the fact of a disbarment that has already occurred."

Silver's ongoing appeal meanwhile "does not alter the fact that he ceased being an attorney by operation of law on the date of his conviction," the judges added.

Silver's attorney Joel Cohen emphasized the procedural natural of the ruling in a phone interview.

"Unfortunately, a felony conviction results in an automatic disbarment," he said. Silver's sentencing is set for April 13.

Later on Tuesday afternoon, Silver lost his bid to keep a court seal on transcripts sought by The New York Times and NBC News

Nobody knows what the documents say, except that they identify at least one previously undisclosed party tied to the corruption case.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni had set a one-week deadline for the release of the information in early February, but appeals by Silver and the as-yet-undisclosed third party have delayed the disclosure.

The Second Circuit rejected Silver's protest late on Tuesday afternoon, but gave "Sealed Party A" another opportunity to argue that it is unnecessary to release the information before sentencing on April 13.

Little is known about "Sealed Party A," except that redacted court documents appear to indicate this person is female.

"The need for an innocent non-party to seek and obtain a determination of her privacy interests now, before her private information is disclosed, is obvious," Chadbourne & Park attorney Abbe Lowell wrote in a March 4 letter.

The public and press, the letter notes, "appear to be waiting for her information with bated breath."

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