October 10, 2011
Transcript Dishonesty Draws Censure
The New Jersey Supreme Court has censured an attorney who falsely represented to his law firm that he had gotten a "A" in Con Law while at Rutgers Law School. In fact, he had received a "C+."
The attorney had secured employment at two law firms using the transcripts with inflated grades. To Sills Cummis & Gross (where he summered and later became an associate), two "Bs" became "B+s. "
He then submitted an altered transcript to Herrick Feinstein and was hired as an associate. The firm (wisely, in my view) insists on an official transcript. The attorney put them off for a year and then tried to conceal the true grade but got caught and fired nonetheless:
A year after he was hired, respondent finally provided an original transcript to the Herrick firm. However, he had affixed to the transcript a yellow Post-It® note, on which he
had written a message to someone named "Elise" in a black indelible marker. When respondent wrote the name "Elise," he did so in such a way that part of the letter "E" was written
directly on the transcript, exactly over the Constitutional Law grade, thereby blocking it.
Someone at the Herrick firm held the transcript up to a light and noticed that the Constitutional Law grade was C+, not A. Rutgers -- Newark confirmed that respondent had received a C+in that course.
He was then fired and given the chance to self-report to the Bar. The firm reported him when he failed to do so.
The investigator for the District Ethics Committee ("DEC") asked him if he had deceived his first firm. He falsely denied doing so. The Discipinary Review Board ("DRB") rejected his claims of faulty memory regarding the altered transcripts submitted to his Sills Cummis.
He did say that what he did was "an indefensible decision that I have regretted ever since" and that he is "truly sorry."
The DEC proposed a one-year suspension. The DRB split on sanction with equal votes for censure or a three-month suspension.
The court decided not to suspend.
What has happened to practice standards in New Jersey that a pattern of dishonesty such as proven here results in a censure? I suspect that those disadvantaged by employment-related grade inflation dishonesty would take a dim view of this result. (Mike Frisch)
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