Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Grade Inflation

The New Jersey Supreme Court imposed a one-year suspension of an attorney for false representations on a resume submitted seeking employment at one of the world's most prestigious law firms. 

The majority of the Disciplinary Review Board proposed a two-year suspension

Sanjiv Laud, Esquire, a Williams & Connolly attorney and alumnus of the law school, reviewed respondent’s employment application. In August 2015, Laud contacted Erin Keyes, the [University of Minnesota] law school’s assistant dean of students, and expressed concern about respondent’s unofficial transcript. Keyes compared the unofficial and official transcripts, and confirmed that there were significant discrepancies. After Keyes contacted the law school’s career center, she concluded that inaccuracies existed between the resume and unofficial transcripts that had been uploaded to the career center’s program and those that respondent had sent to Williams & Connolly.

Respondent admitted that he had made twenty-six misrepresentations on the unofficial transcript submitted to Williams & Connolly. Specifically, he had falsified the transcript to reflect, among other things, grades that were higher than he had received, high grades in courses that he had never taken, and a cumulative GPA of 3.825, rather than the 3.269 that he had actually achieved. Notwithstanding respondent’s admissions, former DEC investigator Peter Choy described in detail the misrepresentations on respondent’s unofficial transcript. We detail the changes made to the transcript for the purpose of showing the depth and degree of respondent’s conduct.


The degree and scope of respondent’s deception, his steadfast commitment to demonstrably false claims, and his attempt to place blame on someone else, demonstrate a disturbing pattern of dishonesty, a refusal to admit wrongdoing, and an arrogant lack of contrition that cannot be countenanced. Moreover, nothing in the record serves to mitigate his misconduct, including his alleged depression, which is undiagnosed and untreated, other than a weekly conversation with someone at the NJLAP. Moreover, although respondent was an inexperienced attorney at the time of these events, one need not have experience to know that one should not lie. Inexperience may serve as mitigation for some shortcomings, but not for engaging in repeated acts of dishonesty, deception, and fabrication of documents.

A DRB dissent favored a shorter suspension

My reading of these cases is that the appropriate range for discipline in cases addressing conduct of the type at issue here is a censure to a three-month suspension. I believe a three-month suspension is in order here, given the number of alterations made in the transcript and the additional misstatements brought to light on respondent’s resume. I do not believe the majority’s recommendation of a two-year suspension can be reconciled with the reported decisions involving similar wrongdoing, a fact acknowledged by the majority opinion. In addition, I believe it is unduly harsh under the circumstances.

The District Ethics Committee favored a censure. (MIke Frisch)


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