In honor of April Fool’s Day, Law.com presents the First Annual Juris-Imprudence Awards, whereby we recognize acts of extreme foolishness by members of the legal community from the past year.
The Dumbest Email
Dewey think it’s okay to cook the books when you’re a little short of cash? No, siree, and neither does the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which recently indicted four of the defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf’s erstwhile members for doing just that: Steven Davis, the firm’s former chairman; Stephen DiCarmine, its former executive director; Joel Sanders, who served as its chief financial officer; and Zachary Warren, who was the client relations manager. P.S. Allegedly, they actually used the phrase “cooking the books” in emails discussing (you guessed it!) cooking the books.
The Rookie Mistake
Here’s a tip: When you’re stepping up to the podium at the highest court in the land, don’t plan to rely on your notes. In January, a nervous first-time U.S. Supreme Court advocate began his argument by reading from a prepared statement, until Justice Antonin Scalia (that old softie), interrupted and asked: “Counsel, you are not reading this, are you?” …Cue awkward silence…
The Cringe-Inducing Associate Error
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is known for its envy-inducing work policies (Go ahead, draft that memo from the beach in Costa Rica!). But even when you’ve got a cushy Biglaw gig, some rules still apply. That lesson was brought home to the firm after one associate “fail[ed] to omit confidential terms from a licensing report while working late one night,” and then distributed the report to 200 people at Quinn’s client, Samsung. No one caught the mistake for a year, and when it was (finally) noticed, the firm chose to say nothing. Then word got out, and Apple and Nokia demanded sanctions. Quinn escaped that fate, but far from telling the firm to hang loose, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal issued a blistering 19-page excoriation of its management structure.
The Long-Overdue Comeuppance
Former SAC Capital portfolio advisor Matthew Martoma was convicted of insider trading after he procured information about the problematic results of an Alzheimer’s drug trial and immediately sold stock in the companies conducting the trial. Martoma was no stranger to cheating: He was expelled from Harvard Law School for falsifying his transcript to improve his chances of getting a federal clerkship. He then managed to get into Stanford Business School (oh, with the help of a name change). But the most seasoned liar has his bad days, and this time, even Martoma couldn’t beat the rap.
The Copycat Criminal
Just a thought: It might not be the best idea commit the same crime as that of your recently convicted client. A Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney was arrested last December for selling Oxycodone out of his Jaguar (in front of his law office, natch) to an undercover police officer. The lawyer’s client, a doctor, had been convicted the month before for distributing the same pills to drug addicts.
The Best Reality Show Star Court Appearance
As TV’s Judge Joe Brown learned last month, reality show antics don’t translate well to an actual courtroom. The former television judge was jailed on a contempt of court charge after reportedly becoming “pretty raucous” in front of a Tennessee juvenile court judge.
The Judge Who Went (Way) Too Far
A New York judge resigned last June after he decided to take the law into his own hands. Specifically, he suspected that a 15-year-old boy had stolen money from his farm stand, so he allegedly pushed the boy to the ground, took his bike, threw it in the boy’s yard and then threatened him with a baseball bat for good measure.
The Grossest Tweet
A Georgia-based lawyer who filed a lawsuit against celebrity chef Paula Deen turned heads last June when he tweeted that he wanted to ”do” and “undress” her. Although the lawyer said he meant it in a strictly metaphorical sense, Deen’s lawyers asked a judge to dismiss him from the case.
The Most Misogynist Comments
An Arkansas judge was outed last month for making racist, sexist and homophobic comments on a popular online college sports board. One of his posts included this gem: “Men have two needs. Feed me and f*<k me. Take care of both we will be good. Whichever one you don’t then the man will find.”
The Most Ridiculous Drug Trafficking Attempt
A Boston lawyer was arrested last November after he decided it was a smart idea to smuggle narcotics to a woman locked up in a courthouse. He was caught (shocker!) and charged with possession of Suboxone with intent to distribute.
The Repeat Offender
Michigan Judge Wade McCree has been removed from office for having sex with a complaining witness in a child-support case before him. Does his name sound familiar? That would be because he’s the same judge who made headlines for texting a shirtless photo to a court employee and then telling a reporter “There’s no shame in my game.” McCree might run for re-election in November, but the Michigan Supreme Court has already suspended him for the entire six-year term.
The Hit with No Run
Last June, an attorney and a retired LAPD officer engaged in a brawl in what appeared to be a case of road rage. The lawyer allegedly got out of his Volkswagen Beetle, walked up to the retired officer’s BMW and punched the driver, who promptly placed the attorney under citizen’s arrest.
The Ill-Timed Nudity
What happens in chambers doesn’t always stay in chambers. A Bosnian judge was recently fired for “damaging the reputation of the judiciary institution” while behind closed doors. Her offense? Oh, just sunbathing on her desk … in the nude … in front of a bunch of windows.
The Completely Absurd Indigence Claim
A Minneapolis attorney racked up $300,000 in sanctions for filing frivolous lawsuits, then claimed poverty despite his $1.35 million income and his lavish spending on “restaurants, meals, liquor, yoga, tanning and kettlebell equipment.”
The Nigerian Scam Victim
This Iowa lawyer may have had the best of intentions in trying to help his client secure a bequest of $18,800,000 from a long-lost cousin in Nigeria (sound familiar?). The situation went from sad to messy when the attorney, Robert Allan Wright Jr., began recruiting his other clients to loan their settlements to help pay the $177,660 in taxes needed to secure the big inheritance. The whole mess resulted in Wright’s suspension by the Iowa Supreme Court, which did take notice of the Disciplinary Board’s conclusion that Wright “appears to have honestly believed — and continues to believe — that one day a trunk full of … one hundred dollar bills is going to appear upon his office doorstep.” Sigh. Don’t we all?
The Resume Forger
Lying on your resume is probably not the brightest idea, but it’s extra risky when you’re a partner at a big law firm and you’re fabricating degrees from Harvard and Oxford, plus admission to the New York and Irish bars. It all looks very impressive — until you’re caught.
The Amazing Time Traveling Lawyer
Ben Swift became the highest-paid attorney for court appointments in Ohio by billing for indigent defense work for an average of nine hours a day, seven days a week for 365 days straight. Impossible, you say? Not if, as an audit showed, some of those days included 21, 23 and 29 billable hours. Swift’s unique sense of time-management earned him a disciplinary review.
The Egregious Stripper-Related Decision
When New Jersey Judge Roman Montes paid a visit to Breathless, a local “go-go bar,” one of the performers recognized him — as the judge presiding over her pending domestic violence case. Awkward? Not for Montes, who asked for her phone number. The judge did try to get the matter transferred, but his continued relationship with the dancer-litigant included communication about her case, and for that he was hit with an ethics complaint.
The Sin of Omission
The Illinois Supreme Court has issued a three-year suspension for solo Reema Nicki Bajaj, who failed to disclose some of her work history on her bar application. That can be an issue — especially when one of your former jobs happens to be prostitution. Bajaj allegedly worked as a call girl from 2005 to 2011, and accepted not only money but office supplies for her law practice in exchange for sex.