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Lawyer Disbarred for Hiding Bags Full of Cash

It may not be clear whether a lawyer who cashes a client check for $1,000 should be disbarred. But what about a lawyer who takes bags full of cash left on a judge's chair, then conceals the money from the IRS? That bizarre fact pattern lead to the legal defenestration of Seattle lawyer Mark Vanderveen, whose disbarment was just affirmed by Washington State's highest court in an 8-1 ruling, according to the Seattle Times.

Vanderveen took one bag filled with $10,000 left on a judge's chair and another left in a municipal parking lot, according to the article. Apparently the money was payment for representing a drug courier. Vanderveen didn't report the money to the IRS, though he'd previously reported similar cash payments. He later pleaded guilty to a felony for non-reporting and served time in jail. Vanderveen argued that he didn't realize that he needed to report the money. However, the bar found that Vanderveen's normal procedures for entering cash payments in his accounting system showed that he should have known that the money needed to be reported. The court disbarred Vanderveen, notwithstanding a hearing officer's recommendation of a three-year suspension.

Vanderveen was a former prosecutor and police officer, so it is likely that he should have known what he did was wrong. But here, as in the $1,000 check-cashing case, this was apparently Vanderveen's only transgression. Was disbarment too harsh?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 16, 2009 at 05:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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