October 30, 2007
Misconduct Outside Law Practice Not A Mitigating Factor
An attorney admitted to practice in New Hampshire in 2004 was involved in an auto accident when he hit a parked car while backing out of the Hampton Plaza. The accident occurred exactly one month after his New Hampshire admission. He falsely reported that he was driving another (insured) van at the time of the accident and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor insurance fraud. The Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee imposed a six-month suspension.
On appeal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court increased the suspension to two years, effective to the date when the attorney had been suspended based on the conviction. While there were a number of mitigating factors, the fact that the conduct took place outside of the practice of law did not mitigate the sanction: "there is a distinction to be made between those cases where the attorney's actions 'directly threaten his clients' and those that do not...But that line is drawn for the purpose of increasing the sanction given to those who breach the special fiduciary duties created by the attorney-client relationship, and not for lessening the sanction affixed to an attorney who is acting as a private citizen." (Mike Frisch)
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If a lawyer is willing to lie to protect his interests while also committing insurance fraud, how likely is he to do the same thing while representing a client?
Professional discipline was appropriate. Two years is a long time. The legal system will not work if lawyers lie and are willing to commit fraud.
Posted by: Wick Chambers | Oct 31, 2007 7:39:22 AM