Sunday, January 11, 2009

Too Harsh?

An associate in a Baton Rouge law firm was assigned to handle a claim for a mother and four children arising out of an accident in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. The lawyer submitted medical bills totaling over $23,000 to an insurance company. The lawyer learned that the client and two of the children had been in an earlier, minor accident in a Wal-Mart lot. The lawyer altered and submitted the medical bills from the first claim. He was indicted and convicted of the felony offense of inciting a felony. Bar disciplinary proceedings were brought that have now resulted in an order of permanent disbarment from the Louisiana Supreme Court. The lawyer had contended that the sanction was "too harsh."

It appears that the lawyer was relatively new to the profession when the conduct took place. Disbarment may well be appropriate, but permanent disbarment? (Mike Frisch)

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Having read the decision, I don't think permanent disbarment is too harsh under the circumstances. As described, the lawyer's inexperience had nothing do with it. He was found to have altered documents, submitted them in connection with a fraudulent claim and then tried to blame it all on his client. One doesn't need any experience as a lawyer to know that is wrong to lie, cheat and steal. The lawyer hit the trifecta. He lied and he cheated in an effort to steal.

Posted by: W.R. Chambers | Jan 12, 2009 7:02:57 AM

I'm pretty liberal on bar discipline but come ON- this is exactly the right remedy for someone who does this. This conduct is outrageous.

Posted by: Johnson | Jan 12, 2009 11:10:42 AM

I have no doubt that disbarment is appropriate. My only thought was that one could imagine the possibility of a dramatic character reformation that might warrant consideration at some future date.

Mike Frisch

Posted by: Legal Profession Prof | Jan 12, 2009 1:08:35 PM

Mike, That is the generalised argument many of us has voiced against permanent disbarment. How can any court know whether, at some future date, an individual will possess the appropriate standards to be a lawyer? Of course, it cannot. This, in turn, brings into doubt the standard judicial refrain that the court disciplines for the purpose of protecting the courts and the public from those that do not meet the appropriate standards and not for the purpose of punishment. Because the courts lack a crystal ball to tell the future, permanent disbarment cannot be anything else but a punishment.


Posted by: FixedWing | Jan 13, 2009 4:31:53 AM

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