Friday, January 20, 2017
"The Gamut From Outlandish And Extravagant" to "Inspired By Some Actual Event "; Michigan Disbars Attorney Who Falsely Claimed He Was Hockey Olympian
The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board affirmed a panel order of disbarment
This case arises out of respondent's numerous misrepresentations, including falsification of his resume beginning prior to and continuing well after his admission to the practice of law in Michigan. The conduct for which discipline was sought, however, began after his admission to practice in Michigan in 2008. The complaint sets forth representations by respondent which include the assertion that he was on the U.S. Field Hockey Squad that participated in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The Grievance Administrator filed a three-count formal complaint against respondent in which it is alleged in that he committed various dishonest acts, including: failing to correct his resume during his employment with one firm; submission of fraudulent resumes to a potential associate, a staffing consultant seeking to fill a position with another attorney, and the Bank of Montreal (BOM); repeated failure to provide his correct address to the State Bar; misrepresentations in and related to respondent's website for Great Lakes Legal Group; and misrepresentations in his answer to the Request for Investigation.
Respondent filed an answer to the formal complaint, but pled "neither admit nor deny for lack of information and/or present knowledge, but leave Petitioner to its proofs" in response to many allegations that he would clearly have had the ability and information to either admit or deny. Respondent did admit, contrary to the information contained in his various resumes, that he was never licensed to practice law in either Connecticut or Missouri; he was never a summer associate in 2003 at the law firm of Carmody Torrance in Connecticut; he was never a summer associate in 2003 at the law firm of Gilmore & Bell, P.C. in Missouri; he was never a summer associate in 2003 at the law firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn in Michigan; he was never awarded a Master of Liberal Arts from Harvard University; he was never a member of the 1996 U.S. Field Hockey Squad; and he never competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Respondent also admitted that, in November of 2009, he practiced as an attorney under his firm's name of Great Lakes Law Group ("GLLG") while further admitting that his response to the Request for Investigation stated he has not been able to launch GLLG as a working law firm and that it was just an "idea that is still in progress."
He sought a hearing adjournment for child care issues and failed to appear when the request was denied. The Board here concluded that it was not error for the hearing to proceed in his voluntary absence.
In a disciplinary case that I prosecuted, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion where the attorney walked out at the start of the resumed hearing due to his unhappiness with a committee ruling on his discovery demands.
As a member of the State Bar, respondent had a duty to honestly represent himself and his qualifications to potential clients and employers. He clearly failed, admitting that much of the information included on his resumes was false. Respondent knowingly and intentionally made multiple misrepresentations regarding his law licenses, work history, and education, in order to obtain employment with various law firms and businesses.
Furthermore, during the same period that respondent was falsifying his resumes, he managed a website which falsely represented that his firm, GLLG, was associated with a number of attorneys at multiple locations around the country. Evidence was presented that established respondent held his firm out as an operational, reputable firm that was taking on new clients, and that the GLLG website had been up and running and was easily accessible by the public. Despite this, respondent represented to the Grievance Administrator that his firm was just an "idea," and the website had never been launched. Such evidence further establishes respondent's cumulative pattern of dishonesty which seriously and adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law...
Respondent did not misspeak, commit scrivener's errors, or even simply "fudge the truth" once or twice. Rather, his misrepresentations run the gamut from outlandish and extravagant to what might be termed modifications of his record inspired by some actual events. For example, to cover up certain things, he extended the term of employment or invented a few fictional "summer associate" positions at firms he worked for at other times. He also claimed he was admitted to practice law in Connecticut and Missouri when he was not, although he was employed by firms in those states for a short time.
Beyond the falsehoods
It is interesting to note that the parts of respondent's resume that have not been proven false in these proceedings are quite impressive. However, whatever the truth may be, the doctored versions are more impressive, as respondent explained in his colloquy with the panel at the sanctions hearing:
So there's no question that I made misrepresentations on my resume. I was not a summer associate where I listed where I was a summer associate at. And the reason for that was, to be quite frank, there's no good reason for it. I understand that was wrongdoing on my part. And I need to be sanctioned for that, which is why I'm here. But at the same time, I just want to draw attention to the fact as to what I did incorrect or what I did wrong or what my wrongdoing specifically was. I wanted to create an impression because of personal circumstances of what had gone on. . .. What I was trying to accomplish was that I was scared nobody would hire me if they realized why I was moving around so much. And I wanted to create this impression of longevity and create this impression of consistency of my movements. [Tr 11-2-2015, p 13, 16.]
But these partial admissions to some of the more glaring and impossible-to-deny falsehoods in this record do not amount to contrition or acknowledgment of wrongdoing, and certainly do not warrant a reduction in discipline.
Collectively, Mr. Zaidi's actions are indicative of a cumulative pattern of a lack of honesty and candor, which is contrary to the fundamental characteristics of an attorney. Although respondent does not have any prior discipline, there is no question he has an established track record of deceit. Given the number and pattern of violations, respondent's dishonesty, and his overall lack of candor and cooperation, the panel properly found that disbarment is appropriate in this case.