Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Reprehensible" But Not Disbarable

The Illinois Review Board has rejected the Administrator's call for disbarment in the much -publicized case involving Loren Friedman. Rather, the board proposes an 18 month suspension with fitness. The board found the following facts:

Respondent attended medical school at the University of Illinois for approximately one year, until he was dismissed for poor scholarship on August 30, 1999. Respondent applied to law school at the University of Chicago in December 1999. Despite the fact that the application requested a list of all professional schools that Respondent attended and asked whether he had ever been dismissed or placed on academic probation at any college or university, Respondent did not disclose that he attended and was dismissed from medical school. Respondent admitted that he purposely omitted his medical school attendance information from the application because he thought it would harm his chances of being accepted to law school.

Respondent was admitted to the University of Chicago Law School and began his studies there in August 2000. During his second year of law school, Respondent submitted his resume and an altered law school transcript to ten to fifteen law firms as part of his search for a summer associate position. Respondent’s grades during his first year of law school were the equivalent of eight C’s and two B’s. However, he altered his transcript so it appeared that he had received the equivalent of four A’s and six B’s. In addition to using the transcript to obtain a summer associate position, Respondent also used it to obtain a job as a law clerk at the firm of Sheats & Kellogg during the 2001-2002 school year.

The law firm of Sidley Austin LLP (Sidley) offered Respondent a summer associate position. Respondent had given Sidley his altered transcript as part of the interview process. Respondent accepted Sidley’s offer and worked there from June 2002 through August 2002. During his employment, Respondent gave Sidley a second altered transcript containing his second-year grades, all of which he had changed.

In addition, Respondent plagiarized a portion of a paper he submitted in his Law, Science and Medicine class in the spring of 2002. His professor, Julie Palmer, reported him to Saul Levmore, the law school’s dean of students. As a result, Respondent was required to submit to Levmore all of the papers he wrote for the remainder of his law school career. Respondent told Levmore that he did not intend to plagiarize, but was merely careless. At the time, Levmore did not know that Respondent had altered his transcripts or misrepresented his academic history on his law school application. Levmore would have convened a disciplinary committee to review Respondent’s actions had he known of Respondent’s other transgressions.

After graduating from law school, Respondent worked as a clerk for a bankruptcy judge. He submitted his true transcript to the judge. Sidley had offered Respondent permanent employment but he did not accept the offer because he knew he had obtained his summer associate position under false pretenses.

Respondent applied for the New York bar in 2003 and was required to submit a copy of his law school application to the bar examiners. Respondent sent a letter to the University of Chicago Law School Dean of Students, Ellen Cosgrove, stating that he was "very surprised to note that [he] had not disclosed in the law school application that I had attended the University of Illinois Medical School for one academic year." Respondent was licensed in New York on January 25, 2006.

Respondent applied for admission to the Illinois bar on December 25, 2005. In his application, he disclosed his dismissal from medical school and also disclosed that he had omitted this information from his law school application. He did not disclose that he had altered his law school transcripts.

In April 2007, Michael Sweeney, a hiring partner at Sidley, received e-mail correspondence from a legal search firm that was trying to find employment for Respondent. A copy of Respondent’s actual law school transcript was attached to the correspondence. Sweeney asked the attorneys who had recruited Respondent why they offered him a job given the grades shown on his transcript. Sweeney then looked at the transcripts that Respondent had submitted to Sidley and, after discussing the discrepancies with his partners, called Respondent. Respondent admitted to Sweeney and John Levi, another Sidley partner, that he had changed his grades.

In a second telephone conversation, Sweeney told Respondent that Sidley would give him the opportunity to report his actions to the Illinois and New York disciplinary authorities instead of Sidley doing so. He also told Respondent that Sidley would report his activities to the University of Chicago Law School. On May 10, 2007, Respondent sent letters to the Illinois and New York bar admission and disciplinary authorities disclosing that he falsified his transcripts.

In mitigation, Respondent presented the testimony of Delaware attorney Megan Cleghorn, New York attorney John Katsanos, and Illinois attorneys Ennedy Rivera and Jacob Hildner. Each witness testified that Respondent has a good reputation for honesty and integrity.

As to sanction:

While reprehensible, Respondent’s misconduct did not harm any clients. Neither is there any indication in the record that Respondent acted dishonestly while practicing law in New York. Based on his sincere remorse and his acceptance of responsibility for his actions, it appears that Respondent has learned from his mistakes. In our view, a suspension of eighteen months UFO is sufficient to protect the public, deter others from engaging in similar misconduct, and require Respondent to satisfy his obligation of establishing his character and fitness before resuming practice.'

The term "UFO" means until further order and not until aliens land in Chicago. (Mike Frisch)

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