Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Bad Lawyer Gets Whacked!

"The [Our State]Supreme Court, today imposed a 24-month suspension against the license of [an] OurTown attorney...for engaging in a pattern of misconduct in which [he] commingled his own funds with client funds on deposit in his law office trust account, and improperly used the trust account as a personal bank account and operating account for an extended period in order to avoid collection actions by his creditors for unpaid judgments and delinquent taxes.

In a 6-1 decision, the Court voted to adopt findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that [the attorney] engaged in fraudulent trust account practices and deliberate deceptions between January 2006 and May 2007. Specifically, [he] violated the rules of professional conduct that require an attorney to maintain a trust account in which only client funds are held, to avoid commingling of his personal funds with monies held for clients, and to keep full and accurate records of all funds deposited to and withdrawn from his trust account. The Court also found violations of the disciplinary rules that prohibit attorneys from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that adversely reflects on an attorney’s fitness to practice law.

The Court adopted the disciplinary board’s recommended sanction of a 24-month license suspension, and imposed as pre-conditions for reinstatement the requirements that [the attorney] complete six additional continuing legal education hours in law-office management and accounting and fully pay or provide evidence that he has entered into settlements of 12 court judgments currently outstanding against him totaling nearly $25,000."

Let me add that the Our State Supreme Court adopted the findings of the disciplinary board that the [Bad Lawyer] had never been previously disciplined in twenty-eight years, nor had he ever taken or misused client funds.
When I started the Bad Lawyer Blawg, it was my intention to tell you everything.  I did many wrong things in the management of my law office over the years, I did not do bad things.  I mistakenly believed that the distinction between the wrong things that I did (versus the bad things that I did not do);  and, the wrong things I omitted to do were not going to catch up with me.  I believed that if my acts and omissions did catch up with me the violations would not result in disciplinary action.  I did not appreciate the gravity of my actions.  I did the things that resulted in my suspension. 

My special insight as a blawg-er is the fact that for twenty-eight years I practiced law at the ground level-the street level.  I reached a level of prominence in Our Town and in Our State--and, I accomplished many overall positive results for clients.  I cared about pushing the law in the direction of helping to make positive change, particularly for victims of child sex abuse. 

I am personally, ashamed, and disgraced.  I do have a conscience and as I said when this all started sleep has been difficult.  The feeling is surreal.  Since I don't drink, or do drugs prescription or otherwise, there is no bufffer on my feelings, the emotions are full force. I am suffering and surfing on and through wave after wave of guilt and remorse.  My dear friends are caring and supportive.  Whether I will be able to professionally return remains another matter--I liked to and I plan to, but who knows, even a brief suspension is like a professional drowning.  Not to overdo the metaphor, but the last two years have been not unlike a professional waterboarding, so at least that's over, I hope.

The Bad Lawyer blawg will continue in its own snarky way to give you news and views of all things--> law.  At the same time I'll also try to document, my humiliations and my fight to survive and return to what I did, proudly once--represent people in Our State who need an advocate who gives a damn about the law, and the people, the courts and law impact. 

Thanks for following the Bad Lawyer Blawg.


  1. ialways heard let the punishment fit the crime. here we excessive punishmewnt with NO crime. please help me as i believe my reading comprehension is diminishing as i was unable to distinguish tghe injured party--only the suspended attorney and the numerous individuals whom count on his astute abilities seem to be damaged in the convoluted aftermath of -?????-. i suggest the conscience is god living in us and therefore we instintivly know when we harm another. that being daid the only conscience that should be alarmed are those of they who are responsible for the imposition of the punishment .
    As for the dealing with SIN a would surely ABSOLVE you if onlyb you had sined

  2. I did a wrong and bad thing 20 years ago. I suffered all of the emotions you are experiencing and similar professional consequences. Chastened, I came back from it recovering both financial security and my professional reputation. It was hard work and it sucked but, to use a cliche, it really was the best thing that could have happened to me. It cured me of the aggrogance and pride that were at the root of my conduct and I have a much better life, in every respect, as a result.

    Good luck to you. I sincerely hope your exprerience has a similar outcome.

  3. Thank you for the encouraging words. Tough day, but I'm going to put one foot in front of the other for awhile. I apologize for the other posts, today, which distract from this post. One of the secrets of this blawg, is that as I find items I wish to comment on, I prepare the posts and I "schedule" publicaton ahead of time. I would not have posted anything but this post today. It is not my wish to distract from reality, or diminish it's importance to me. I promise to post more about how this point in my life evolved. It would be wrong to conclude that one day I woke up and decided to bollix up my law practice and professional standing. But with a hundred small decisions, I did this to myself.

  4. I hope you can keep writing about lawyers and judges, you process lots of stories and explain things that arent real clear to non-lawyers.

  5. Rest in the truth of the fact that you personally helped many victims of crimes of abuse and, in fact, pioneered this are of law in Our State. -MK

  6. Rest in the truth of the fact that you personally helped many victims of crimes of abuse and, in fact, pioneered this area of law in Our State. -MK

  7. Your Aug. 17 description of the problems (that your secretary wrote checks on the trust account to pay her bills) doesn't mesh with the state Supreme Court's description of your offenses (that you used the trust fund as a "personal bank account" to avoid collection actions by your creditors). Nor does your statement that you did "wrong things" but not "bad things" mesh with the admitted commingling. Every first-year law student learns that commingling funds is a "bad thing," not just a "wrong thing," so how could you not know that what you were doing was unethical?

    So which is it? Were you an innocent victim of someone else's fraud or did you in fact commingle funds and then use them to avoid your creditors?

  8. Anon 4:38--

    Thank you for your question and for reading deeply in the blawg.

    I love it when someone prefaces an argument with "every first-year law student learns (or knows)..." It's a variation on the classic insult, pre-empting any response.

    Notwithstanding, I posted the Supreme Court opinion so you can draw whatever conclusions you wish to draw and make any inferences you wish to make. Any lawyer who has ever practiced in any court learns (or knows) that because the Supreme Court says it's so, it is so. This is true if they say that something is so this term, and the opposite is so next term. Consequently when I win a jury trial, and the appellate court reverses stating as fact assertions made in the appellant's brief and ignoring facts in the record and which the jury based their verdict--then I must conclude that my memory of the events, my reading of the record is false.

    Is stealing the client's money bad, yes! Did the Supreme Court or ANYONE ever allege that money was stolen? No. Was all money taken from an IOLTA account, money earned and the attorney fees of the lawyer. Uh, huh. Let me ask you a question, did you see anywhere in the opinion where the Supreme Court addressed the existence of an operating account? No. Me either, funny thing about that--there was an operating account form which bills, taxes, and other obligations were paid. One other thing, did you see any facct that suggested that creditors or tax authorities were attempting collections that were resisted by a scheme to shelter assets in the IOLTA account? No. Do you know why? Because that evidence does not exist, it wasn't happening, and yet there was a funded operational account.

    Oh, I did all that I did, feel free deem it bad acts, and while I can pander excuses all day long, I refuse to. You already know what all First Year lawyers know--and, I instead of practicing law will be sitting in classes re-learning what I didn't learn the first time.

    But let me remind you of something, despite what the Supreme Court might say this term or next term, I am the same lawyer that practiced law for 28 years without a disciplinary complaint, paid nearly all of his bills, employed others, mentored other lawyers, chaired the assistance to lawyers committee of the Bar Association, represented people who could not get representation, traveled all over the state and participated in the creation of the founding movements that changed the way sexual abuse victims receive justice, tried and argued hundreds of cases in nearly every venue escept the US Supreme Court--I am the same person that Our Supreme Court now finds as a fact, lacks the character to practice law for the next two years.

    Yep. I did this to myself and I'd like my experience to be a cautionary example to others.

    Anon., thank you.

  9. I suppose that in practice, legal jurisdictions exercise their right to determine who is recognized as being a lawyer; as a result, the meaning of the term "lawyer" may vary from place to place