Was That Wrong?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Was That Wrong column.  In a way, that’s good.  Yet, lawyers never fail to entertain disappoint.  So, we have another entry.

For those of you unfamiliar with Was That Wrong, it’s based on the “Red Dot” episode of Seinfeld.  In the episode, George Costanza had sex in his office with a character known only as “the cleaning woman.”  His boss found out.  Here’s their ensuing exchange :

(Scene) In the boss’s office.

  • Boss: I’m going to get right to the point. It has come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct?
  • George: Who said that?
  • Boss: She did.
  • George: Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices and I tell you people do that all the time.
  • Boss: You’re fired.
  • George: Well you didn’t have to say it like that.

The full script is HERE.  The scene is HERE.

Costanza’s response served as my inspiration for the Was That Wrong column.  The column takes a break from my regular posts.  It features stories of the absurd & outrageous from the world of legal ethics and attorney discipline, highlighting misconduct that I hope you’ll instinctively avoid without needing a CLE that urges you to do so.

Today’s entry comes from Michigan.  Here’s how I picture it going down if it were a Seinfeld episode:

  • Hearing Panel:  We’ll get right to the point.  It has come to our attention that, despite what your resume and websites say:
    • you were never licensed to practice law in either Connecticut or Missouri;
    • you were never a summer associate in 2003 at law firms in Connecticut, Missouri, and Michigan.
    • you were never awarded a Master of Liberal Arts from Harvard University;
    • you were never a member of the 1996 U.S. Field Hockey Squad; or
    • you never competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Lawyer:  Says who?
  • Hearing Panel Well, were you?
  • Lawyer:  Was that wrong? See, here’s the thing…..
  • Hearing Panel:  Disbarred.
  • Lawyer:  Well, you didn’t have to say it like that.

The order disbarring the attorney is HERE.

I’m not sure I can pick a favorite part of this case.  It might be when a member of the hearing panel asked the lawyer where he lived and, after a convoluted response, had to say “See, it’s not a trick question.  Where do you live now?”

In the end, Michigan’s Attorney Discipline Board stated that it agreed with a statement made by the hearing panel chair at the sanctions hearing. The statement is below, with the emphasis mine.

  • “I’ve been practicing for 62 years, I’m proud of my profession. I take this panel obligation very seriously and have for a good number of years. And I don’t want dishonest, deceitful,lying, conniving lawyers in my profession. I’ll tell you that right out. And you haven’t really – you haven’t really given me anything – any reasons why I shouldn’t put you in that category of a dishonest, deceitful, conniving. . .. Very frankly, I’m annoyed at your lack of response. I’m annoyed at the fact that you really didn’t acknowledge what you’ve done. You’ve misrepresented yourself all over the place. I don’t know why you think you can get away with this kind of conduct …. And I’m going to tell you something else while I’m telling you, you have seven years of college. You’re supposed to have some brains. You have the privilege of a law license from the state of Michigan. You have the privilege of belonging to one of the oldest professions. Okay? And you – from what I’ve seen, you don’t appreciate that. You haven’t given that the kind of appreciation and concern that I think it deserves.”

The Legal Profession Blog has the full story here.


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