January 16, 2007
Dishonesty in D.C.: No Big Deal
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals (Associate Judges Reid and Fisher, Senior Judge King) heard oral argument this morning in In re Scanio. The Court reviewed a Board report recommending public censure of an attorney who had been injured in a minor traffic accident. The attorney treated the accident as a winning lottery ticket, creating a wildly inflated claim for lost income with intent to deceive the insurance company. He then lied to his law firm about the circumstances; the firm discharged him. He repeated the same false story in the disciplinary hearing.
The D.C. Board found that the attorney's pro se representation did not involve the practice of law (representing yourself is not practice-related?) and seems to suggest that an insurance company should expect dummied claims. The Board cited a series of cases where attorneys had been suspended for dishonest conduct to justify its non-suspension sanction recommendation. A single Board member dissented in favor of a 60 day suspension. The dissent is worth a read for those who want a sense of the D.C. Board's lenient agenda.
I only hope that the Court firmly rejects this most recent attempt to lower the ethical standards of my own Bar. Note: the dissenting member's reward for her views that one of the judges aptly called "eloquent"? She was denied reappointment to the Board as a result of the machinations of the author of the abominable majority report.
Disclosure: I advised this Board member in connection with her attempt to be appointed to serve a second term. I remain disappointed that Bar politics trumped integrity and public protection, denying a Board member a second term for the first time in the history of the D.C. Bar. Read the dissent and ask yourself why a person who advocated for a higher standard of honesty than the Board appears willing to tolerate is deemed unworthy to serve. The answer reflects poorly on the concept of a self-regulating profession. (Mike Frisch)
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