Friday, May 18, 2018

Better Not Call

A Michigan Tri-County Hearing Panel disbarred an attorney who had a colorful history of creative misconduct

The Detroit News reported

A Metro Detroit lawyer with a history of misconduct was disbarred Tuesday after a law student suspected that he had forged another attorney’s signature on documents filed at the Michigan appeals court.

Robert Slameka’s law license was taken away by a panel at the Attorney Discipline Board. He didn’t appear at the hearing.

In 2011, Slameka accepted $7,500 to handle an appeal for Damitrice Vann, who was convicted of carjacking and other crimes in Oakland County, according to the Attorney Grievance Commission.

He was accused of subsequently filing court documents under the name of another attorney, Matthew Evans. The filings occurred just before Slameka began serving a 90-day suspension for misconduct in another matter.

“I did not work on your case nor did I file any pleadings on your behalf. … I don’t know why or how this occurred,” Evans said in a letter to Vann.

Slameka, 74, denied wrongdoing during a brief interview with the Associated Press.

“I’m long gone, dude. I’m out of the game,” he said. “I’m living life, and I’m really enjoying it.”

Abbey Lent, a student at University of Michigan law school, was the first to become suspicious.

For other reasons, she was reviewing Vann’s conviction as a possible new case for the school’s Innocence Clinic. Lent looked at the file and noticed that Slameka had told the appeals court that Evans was taking over as the attorney.

“Evans’ signature looked weird,” Lent said. “He confirmed he had never worked on this case. He signed a sticky note, scanned it and faxed it to us. His signature looked nothing like the signature on the substitution form.”

Slameka’s law license was suspended for six months in 2015 after misdemeanor convictions for larceny and breaking and entering. He was well-known at the Wayne County courthouse and had many court-appointed clients.

Slameka had been criticized for his handling of several cases, including the wrongful-murder convictions of 14-year-old Davontae Sanford, who spent eight years in prison.

Sanford told The Detroit News in 2016 that Slameka advised him to plead guilty to four murders he didn’t commit and to seek a bench trial.

Detroit News also covered the Sanford case and noted

The attorney who convinced 14-year-old Davontae Sanford to plead guilty to four drug house murders he didn’t commit is trying to get his law license back after it was suspended for breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s house.

Robert Slameka also lost his driver’s license years ago because he owed more than $600 in unpaid parking tickets. At a recent Michigan Attorney Discipline Board hearing to determine whether to restore his law license, Slameka blamed his “drunken” wife for the 42 outstanding infractions, saying she would become intoxicated and throw the tickets away without telling him.

There was a hole in his story, though: His wife was dead when the tickets were issued.

His mother was dead, too, but that didn’t stop Slameka from posthumously forging her name on her stock dividend checks and depositing them into his bank account...

Slameka’s habit of doing business in a casino hotel lobby was also criticized in the [bar counsel] report.

“One is hard pressed to understand (Slameka’s) reluctance to maintain an appropriate office system given his financial resources and the need to serve his clients appropriately,” Bullington wrote. “(Slameka) had over $760,000 in his bank account, two homes ... and stock holdings. The question remains of why he (didn’t get an office)?”

Bullington cited an exchange between Slameka and discipline board panelist Paul Fischer during the April 1 hearing:

Fischer: “Where’s your new office?”

Slameka: “The hotel lobby of the downtown casino.”

Fischer: “You know, it sounds like ‘Better Call Saul.’ ”

Bullington pointed out how Slameka was caught lying when questioned about more than $600 he owed from outstanding parking tickets.

During the April 1 hearing, Slameka said of his wife: “In her drunken state (she) would just park someplace, the car would get ticketed, and she’d either throw them on the ground or put them in the drawer, which I found later, and I did not know until the Secretary of State wrote me and said you can’t get a driver’s license.

“I said why? And they said you have this amount of tickets. Well, what am I going to do? She’s not here, so I went down to the horrible place on Lafayette and Sixth and paid them.”

Bullington noted that Slameka’s wife, Susan, died in May 2008 — before some of the tickets were written.

Dead mom signing

Slameka had his law license suspended 11 months after his May 2014 breaking and entering and larceny convictions, for which he was sentenced to probation. He claimed he broke into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment to retrieve a wallet he’d left there. He told police he didn’t find the wallet, but that he took several items of clothing he’d bought his ex.

In her report, Bullington cited another reason she felt Slameka shouldn’t get his law license restored: “Signing one’s dead mother’s name to checks and then lying about it is not exemplary conduct.”

Slameka’s mother died in 2005, Bullington wrote. “(She) had purchased stocks and placed his name on the stocks to eliminate probate proceeds. (Slameka) claimed he notified the issuing companies of his mother’s death.”

But bank records show that after his mother died, Slameka continued forging her signature onto the dividend checks and depositing them into his account, Bullington said.

When first questioned about the checks, Slameka said he hadn’t posthumously signed his mother’s name. “After being shown checks with both names signed, (Slameka) acknowledged that he had signed his deceased mother’s name to the checks on multiple occasions.”

In her conclusion, Bullington wrote that Slameka hasn’t met the standards to continue practicing law.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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