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Another Example of the Cover-Up Being Worse Than the Crime

In politics, the cover-up is generally worse than the crime. The same is true in the practice of law, where a lawyer's efforts to cover up a not-so-horrible act of neglect eventually landed him in even more hot water.

Michael Frisch, an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law, posts about an example of this phenomenon at the Legal Profession Blog. As described in this New York Appellate Court decision, the lawyer in question was an associate at Weinberg & Kert who prepared a summons and complaint on behalf of a client who was ostensibly proceeding pro se. A few months later, the client advised the firm that the defendant had not answered the summons and complaint so the firm directed the associate to serve the papers seeking a default. The associate prepared the papers but never filed them. A year later, the client contacted the firm for a status report, at which time the associate began creating fictitious court documents including:

(a) a short form order dated April 23, 2003, issued and signed by the Honorable M. Ritholtz, granting Mr. Kaufman's motion for a default judgment and referring the issue of damages to an inquest, (b) the defendant's order to show cause, signed by the Honorable M. Ritholtz on September 12, 2003, seeking to set aside the default judgment, accompanied by defense counsel's signed affirmation and the defendant's signed, but not notarized, affidavit, (c) the respondent's affirmation in opposition to the defendant's order to show cause, dated October 8, 2003, (d) a preliminary conference stipulation and order dated March 17, 2004, signed by the respondent and defense counsel, and (e) a notice of compliance/settlement conference scheduled for October 21, 2004, before the Honorable M. Ritholtz.

Needless to say, the associate was eventually caught and despite alleging mitigating factors -- such as anxiety disorder and youth and inexperience -- he was suspended from the practice of law for three years. All for a claim that was eventually settled for $7,500.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 24, 2009 at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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