A former New Hampshire judge who admitted to submitting fake reviews of himself and attempting to defraud the state’s retirement system has been disbarred in his home state, a development that follows his guilty plea to a felony fraud charge earlier this year.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court handed down a one-page order last Thursday directing that Paul Moore, a former circuit court judge in Nashua, New Hampshire, be barred from practicing law. The decision adds to the fallout that Moore has faced over his manipulation of a judicial evaluation system.
Moore previously admitted to trying to game the judicial reviews by submitting phony evaluations that gave him top marks. He later attempted to apply for retirement benefits based on a disability, but eventually admitted to deception with respect to that application. He was convicted in May on a fraud charge following a guilty plea.
“In light of the seriousness of the respondent’s misconduct, the court concludes that the respondent should be disbarred,” the New Hampshire high court’s five justices wrote.
Moore’s defense lawyer, Michael Delaney, a former New Hampshire attorney general now serving as litigation department director at McLane Middleton, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Moore’s disbarment.
Moore’s troubles began to emerge around the time his 2017 judicial evaluation began in July of that year. The review process for judges in New Hampshire takes place every three years and relies in part on anonymous surveys filled out by lawyers and others who have had dealings with a particular judge. Moore, however, admitted to filing multiple positive reviews of himself through the system. He also reportedly sent the 2017 evaluation results as part of an application to serve on New Hampshire’s Supreme Court.
Investigators at New Hampshire’s Judicial Conduct Committee pointed to a number of red flags that helped lead to the conclusion that Moore was sending in fake reviews. For one, Moore had accumulated some 16 reviews—all giving him perfect scores in each category—within one day of when he was provided a link to the online survey for his evaluation. But the link didn’t go out to the full group of people tapped to review Moore until a day later.
The judicial conduct body also noted that the response rate for Moore was much higher than that of other judges under review. Also, the committee said, many of the reviews for Moore made heavy use of exclamation points, which were abnormal for judicial reviews, and included phrases that the former judge was known to use when dictating court orders.
“Probable cause exists to believe that Judge Moore abused the prestige of his judicial office to advance his personal or economic interests,” the judicial conduct committee wrote in March in a formal statement of charges against Moore.
After he was caught submitting fake reviews, Moore, a former U.S. Army Ranger, maintained that he suffered from chronic pain, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, and that those issues contributed to his improper conduct. In mid-October, Moore was suspended from the bench and put on paid leave. He was later put on unpaid leave and, in April, he resigned.
“I allowed myself to develop inflated concerns about the fairness of the process, and I developed misperceptions about an unfair imbalance in the list of individuals selected to evaluate me,” Moore wrote in a March 2018 letter responding to a complaint by New Hampshire’s JCC. “I allowed my anxiety with the process to interfere with my role as a judicial officer.”
Early this year, Moore compounded his disciplinary troubles by applying for disability retirement benefits, pointing to the mental conditions he also cited in his response to the JCC.
State prosecutors accused him of making false statements in connection with that bid for a disability pension, and Moore admitted to that crime with a guilty plea in May. He was sentenced to pay a $4,000 fine and to reimburse the state retirement system for $3,900. But he avoided prison time in light of a suspended jail sentence.