April 22, 2009
A Sad Situation
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court imposed a 15 month suspension, backdated to an interim suspension, of an attorney convicted of offenses related to drug possession. The attorney also had been criminally charged with misapplication of entrusted property involving over $500, 000. The attorney was charged as a co-defendant with his adoptive father, with whom he had practiced law. The criminal case resulted in verdicts against the adoptive father for the full charged amount. The lawyer was found to have misapplied approximately $40,000.
The Disciplinary Board called the matter a "sad situation." The attorney had been sexually abused by the adoptive father, who was the senior member of their firm. He had reluctantly had joined the firm after law school out of a sense of obligation to the adoptive father. His drug problems were an attempt to self-medicate. He had been:
tasked by his adoptive father with the nearly impossible responsibility of repairing a large shortfall in his law firm's escrow account. This shortfall was not due to any misconduct on [his] part, but rather was the fault of [his] adoptive father, who was eventually convicted of theft offenses in relation to this shortfall. All new attorneys face challenges in the workplace; [his] challenge was unlike anything this Board has witnessed. [He] had no other direct supervision when he became an attorney aside from his adoptive father, who had a powerful hold over [his] conduct as a result of his sexual abuse and the financial control he exerted over him. [His] involvement in the law firm's financial problems caused stress and resulted in his eventual addiction to cocaine.
Several Board members dissented in favor of either a non-retroactive or a two-year suspension. (Mike Frisch)
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