February 29, 2008
More Friends Like These
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended an attorney for a year and a day, adopting the proposed sanction of its Disciplinary Board. The case is an interesting one involving a relatively inexperienced attorney who was operating a real estate title company. A "friend" asked that the attorney "do him a favor, and [the attorney] agreed." The friend (not a lawyer) had taken a deposit on real property and failed to either escrow the funds or return to the buyer when the deal fell through. The buyer had complained to police, resulting in criminal charges. The attorney wrote two letters (signed "esquire") confirming that he had received and escrowed the money (over $25,000) that the friend owed. As a result, the criminal charges were dismissed.
Trouble was that the assertions were false. When the falsehoods were discovered, the criminal case had to be reinstituted and additional public expense was involved in the friend's extradition. From the board's appended report: "Respondent's perplexing inability to articulate why he signed the letters when he knew he did not hold the escrow funds underscores his total lack of awareness of and appreciation for the circumstances." (Mike Frisch)
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