Remember when I wrote about the defense lawyer whose pants caught on fire during his closing argument in an arson case? Well, get ready for another to which you can only say “you can’t make this stuff up”
Was That Wrong is a semi-regular column on Ethical Grounds. The column features stories of the absurd & outrageous from the world of legal ethics and attorney discipline. My aim is to highlight misconduct that I hope you’ll instinctively avoid without needing me to convene a CLE that cautions you to do so.
The column is inspired by the “Red Dot” episode of Seinfeld. In the episode, George Costanza has sex in his office with a character known only as “the cleaning woman.” His boss finds out. Here’s their ensuing exchange :
(Scene) In the boss’ 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 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.
Today’s version comes from us from Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes. (Sidenote: nice basketball connection here. Not many people know why the Los Angeles Lakers are called “the Lakers.” It’s because they used to be in Minneapolis.)
Anyhow, per Paul Caron at the TaxProf Blog, a former U.S. Tax Court judge was sentenced to 34 months in federal prison for tax fraud committed while sitting on the tax court. The Minnesota Lawyer has additional details.
Someday I hope to launch a YouTube channel tied to this blog. When I do, here’s how I imagine scripting today’s entry when I adapt Was That Wrong to the screen.
- Sentencing Court: We’re going to get right to the point. It’s come to our attention that, over about 10 years, you and your husband fraudulently deducted approximately $500,000 of personal expenses as business expenses, fraudulently claimed around another $440,000 in deductions that, in fact, had been reimbursed, intentionally understated your income, made a series of false claims on your tax returns, and, when audited, intentionally submitted false documents to the auditors. And, that for the entire time, you were a sitting judge on the U.S. Tax Court.
- Defendant: Who said that?
- Sentencing Court: You admitted it.
- Defendant: 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 that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, cause I’ve seen a lot of cases and I tell you people do that all the time.
- Sentencing Court: 34 months.
- Defendant: Well you didn’t have to say it like that.
The previous entries in Was That Wrong?
- Conspiring with police to have your paralegal set up opposing counsel for a DUI mid-trial
- Bringing a gun to your disbarment hearing
- Sexting a Client
- Defrauding Investors, with Client Funds as Collateral
- Outrageous Falsehoods on a Resume
- Judge Orders Attorney Handcuffed to Jury Box
- Swearing at a Judge who Overrules Your Objection