January 27, 2009
"An Easy Disregard For the Truth" Warrants Disbarment
A hearing committee of the District of Columbia Board on Professional Professional Responsibility has issued a 54-page report in a case involving intentional failure to pursue the client's lawful objectives and related dishonest conduct. The lawyer had deceived his client and law firm by creating a forged document to cover his failure to act diligently in the matter. The law firm discovered the misconduct, discharged him and reported the matter to Bar Counsel.
The lawyer had compounded the dishonesty in the client's case with false testimony in the bar proceeding:
As Dr. Blumberg [bar counsel's expert] observed, Respondent 'lies with impunity.' Respondent's dishonesty was not limited to the Client's ERA [an easement agreement that the attorney had forged, falsely notarized and submitted in connection with a real estate transaction] and the resulting disciplinary matter. Respondent has an 'extensive history of impulsivity, manipulation and an easy disregard for the truth.' Putting [him] under oath at the hearing did not deter him from lying as he testified falsely about his cocaine usage and the treatment he had received. [He] eventually admitted that he has a 'problem' with honesty and trustworthiness and that he had lied to get out of trouble. This 'problem' with honesty and trustworthiness are apparently deeply ingrained, life-long, and not caused by his cocaine and alcohol use.
The board, which will review this report, has historically been reluctant to disbar for dishonest conduct. It will be worth watching this case to see if excuses can be found to justify a lesser sanction in light of the findings of the hearing committee. (Mike Frisch)
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