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 story comes thanks to Joe Patrice at Above the Law: Attorney Forges Judges’ Signatures Over 100 Times. Earns Jail, Sick Burn. Yesterday, the attorney was sentenced to 364 days in jail, and 10 years probation, for forging judges’ signatures on 114 structured settlements and filing them with the court clerk.
As regular readers know, this is the point in the column where, using the same structure as the “was that wrong” conversation between Costanza and his boss, I’d draft an imaginary colloquy between the attorney-forger & the judge who sentenced him.
No, today’s story reminds me more Bizarro Jerry, the episode in which Kramer is fired from a job that he doesn’t even have. The relevant segment:
- Leland (the boss): Well, I’m sorry. There’s just no way that we could keep you on.
- Kramer: I don’t even really work here!
- Leland: That’s what makes this so difficult.
Returning to today’s story, as Patrice wrote on the ATL blog,
- “It remains one of the most baffling cases of professional misconduct we’ve covered at Above the Law for the simple reason that Camacho seemingly garnered no advantage at all from his actions. The settlements would’ve earned a rubber stamp had he submitted them to the court. He just… didn’t.”
Here’s how I envision it in Bizarro world:
- Judge: Well, I’m sorry. There’s just no way we can condone lawyers forging judges’ signatures on settlements. I sentence you to 364 days in jail.
- Lawyer: But they’d have been approved even if I didn’t forge them!
- Judge: That’s what makes this so difficult.