Thursday, March 27, 2014

Malpractice Coverup Leads To Crime, Suspension

Caitlin McCaffrey has this story on the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

A Cincinnati attorney who was  sentenced by a federal court to five years probation for creating and  submitting fraudulent documents to the Internal Revenue Service and who  fabricated an e-mail during litigation against her and her firm has been  suspended indefinitely from the practice of law today by the Ohio Supreme  Court.

In a 6-1 decision, the court  ruled that Suzanne Prieur Land engaged in conduct that reflects adversely on  her trustworthiness and engaged in deceitful, dishonest, or fraudulent conduct  that was prejudicial to the administration of justice and adversely reflects on  her fitness to practice law.

While working in a large law firm  in 2010, Land created and submitted fraudulent documents to the IRS on two  separate occasions. She was trying to cover up mistakes she made during the  drafting of estate-planning documents that cost her clients hundreds of  thousands of dollars in tax benefits.

Also in early 2010, Land  fabricated an e-mail in order to boost her credibility in a malpractice lawsuit  where she was facing accusations that she did not properly advise her client. During  a disciplinary hearing, Land testified that she felt overwhelmed by the  pressure from her firm and challenges to her professional skills, and that the  scrutiny led her to greater alcohol consumption and self-medication with  anti-anxiety drugs she purchased over the Internet.

Land pled guilty to corruptly  attempting to obstruct and impede the due administration of the IRS in 2012.  She was sentenced to five years probation, including three years of home  detention, and ordered to pay penalties of $75,000, abstain from alcohol use,  and continue mental-health treatment as deemed necessary by her probation  officer.

The court, in today’s per curiam  (not authored by a specific justice) opinion, adopted the findings of the Board  of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline. The court agreed with the  board’s recommendation that Land be suspended indefinitely from practicing law and  that she cannot petition for reinstatement until she completes her federal  probation. Also, upon her petition for reinstatement, Land must present proof  that she has satisfactorily completed, or is in compliance with, her Ohio  Lawyers Assistance Program contract, and that she continues to receive  treatment from a therapist until the therapist decides it is no longer needed.

The majority opinion  was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer,  Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, and William M.  O’Neill.

Justice Terrence  O’Donnell dissented, stating that he would start the suspension after the  federal probation has been served.

2013-0940. Disciplinary Counsel v. Land, Slip  Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-1162.

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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