October 20, 2011
A New Life
An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended that a petition for reinstatement be denied. The petitioner had been convicted of billing fraud offenses. Her then-husband was also convicted and disbarred for billing fraud. At the time he was the managing partner of the Chicago office of Winston & Strawn.
Lisa Lerman has an in-depth study of the billing fraud cases against petitioner and her then-spouse in an article published in the Hofstra Law Review. After her lengthy analysis of the available facts, Lerman muses:
The Fairchild saga is one of those “truth is stranger than fiction”
stories. How strange are they? Obviously most practicing lawyers do not
bill thousands of fictitious hours or ask their firms or their clients to pay
for their spa visits or their vacation charter planes. Only a small number
of lawyers steal hundreds of thousands of dollars. But how do the
Fairchilds compare with other lawyer thieves? If they are sui generis, we
might draw wrong lessons from their stories.
The rest of Lerman's story is told by the Hearing Board.
After prison, the petitioner moved to Idaho and has lived there ever since. She produced evidence concerning her mental condition at the time of the misconduct, but that evidence was refuted by testimony from an attorney who had worked closely with her at the time. She has worked productively in a law-related field and wants to practice in Idaho. She has sought and been denied admission there.
There were several issues that troubled the Hearing Board. She sued her former firm, claiming that it had treated her differently than an allegedly thieving male colleague. The suit was eventually dropped. There were also concerns about restitution and whether she accepted responsibility for her misconduct.
The Hearing Board was not entirely negative:
Since her conviction, sentence, and disbarment, Petitioner has truly made a new life for herself and her children. The success of Petitioner’s children, after significant upheaval during their earlier years, is a testament to Petitioner’s sincere efforts to be a good parent and to provide her children with continuity and support.
Petitioner met the basic requirements of serving her sentence, successfully completing probation, and paying restitution as ordered by the court. Petitioner also paid the costs assessed in connection with the disciplinary proceedings and has maintained employment.
Petitioner’s character witnesses, each of whom, we believe, testified sincerely, included an Illinois Appellate Court Justice, a former Idaho Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, and other prominent members of the legal and business communities in Idaho. We accept the testimony concerning Petitioner’s good reputation in Idaho as relevant; she has lived and worked in Idaho for years and intends to continue doing so.
Many of Petitioner’s witnesses traveled from Idaho to testify on Petitioner’s behalf. All of Petitioner’s character witnesses were aware of her misconduct.
Knowledge of the current state of the law is one of the elements a person seeking reinstatement must show. We find Petitioner is very knowledgeable about the current state of the law.
Among the things we must consider in evaluating Petitioner’s request to be reinstated is the impact of her conduct on the legal profession, the public and the administration of justice. Petitioner’s misconduct was of enormous proportions. To allow Petitioner to be reinstated at this time would deprecate the seriousness of her misconduct and significantly devalue the importance of restoring the confidence of the public in the legal profession, and in the administration of justice.
After having carefully considered the evidence and law, we conclude, while Petitioner has fulfilled some of the requirements necessary for reinstatement, she has not fully met her heavy burden of proof at this time. Therefore, we recommend reinstatement be denied.
Petitioner had entered an Alford plea to the criminal charges in 1997 and was disbarred in 2000. (Mike Frisch)
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