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Which is more unbelievable: that a lawyer would forge a state assistant attorney general’s signature to make his firm believe he’d landed a client, or that it would take nearly a decade after the lawyer was caught for him to be punished? Welcome to Washington, where lawyerly misconduct is always punished .�.�. eventually. Scott Slaughter was suspended from practicing law earlier this month by the D.C. Court of Appeals for falsely representing to his firm that the state of Arkansas had retained him to handle contingency work on Superfund litigation. Instead, the state hired Slaughter as a temporary consultant. The court’s suspension of Slaughter is for three years, with reinstatement conditioned on proof of rehabilitation. It comes nearly a decade after Slaughter was charged with dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation — the holy quartet for bad lawyering. Slaughter is no longer practicing and works for the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, an analysis group for Congress. He declined to comment. Back in 1994, while Slaughter was being recruited to join the Washington office of Coffield, Ungaretti & Harris as a partner, he represented that he could bring in the state of Arkansas as a client. At that time, the state was embroiled in litigation over a Superfund site. Superfund is the common name for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, which funds cleanups. According to court documents, in August 1994, shortly after Slaughter joined Coffield, Ungaretti, he signed a consulting contract with Arkansas to provide legal assistance to the state’s Superfund program. But the contract was limited to one year, beginning Aug. 3, 1994, and capped the fee at $4,999. That’s when Slaughter called an audible. Before the consulting contract was even signed, Slaughter started billing for phantom work relating to the state’s damage claims, according to the Court of Appeals. To support the charade, Slaughter showed the firm’s management committee copies of representation agreements that were signed with the forged signature of the Arkansas assistant attorney general, Charles Moulton. Slaughter also provided the firm with updates on settlement efforts, including the state’s agreeing to pay Coffield, Ungaretti a contingent fee of 30 percent in the event of a jury-awarded settlement. Eventually the firm was tipped off by a lawyer in Arkansas that it did not have the state as a client. So why did it take so long for the District to mete out punishment? The D.C. Office of Bar Counsel filed charges against Slaughter in 1999. In 2003, the Board on Professional Responsibility issued its decision, after a long interval but one not unprecedented for attorney discipline proceedings. “It’s something we’re getting better at,” says Bar Counsel Wallace “Gene” Shipp Jr. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis on getting through these cases more quickly. Today we have much of less of a backlog than we did several years ago.” But such delays, combined with the slow metabolism of the Court of Appeals on disciplinary matters, gave the case all the urgency of a cable TV company setting up a service call.

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