Conspiring to defraud the U.S. Government. Was that wrong?

This one left me stunned.  Even as the author of this column.

As most readers know, I’m a big fan of pub trivia.  The MVP on any pub quiz team is the person who can nail the “music round.”  A great tidbit of music trivia is that 10cc sang The Things We Do For Love. The relevant line today:

“You lay your bets and then you pay the price,

The things we do for love.”

First, and by way of background, 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 continuing legal education seminar 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.

The full script is HERE.  The scene is HERE.

Now, onto today’s story.

I’m fairly confident that none of our judges has a spouse who will end up charged with federal crimes.

I’m as confident that those who do understand the risks of tampering with the government’s witnesses.

Finally, I’m even more confident that those who are removed from the bench for witness tampering in a spouse’s criminal cases will not later engage in an elaborate scheme to convince the Federal Bureau of Prisons that their convicted spouse is an alcoholic when, in fact, they know that their spouse is not.

This one also left me feeling naïve.

Who knew there were businesses that, for a fee, would help convicted persons learn to lie their way into prison programming that would help them gain early release?

The story comes via Bloomberg Law (sub. req.) and the Legal Profession Blog.  The relevant documents from the disciplinary case are here.  I urge you to scroll to the “agreed upon statement of facts.” It begins on page 18 of the PDF.

Anyhow, here’s how I envision the Was That Wrong? adaptation:

  • Court: We’re going to get right to the point. It has come to our attention that you and others conspired to get your wife into prison programming for which you knew she did not qualify?
  • Lawyer: Who said that?
  • Court: You did. When you pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the U.S. Government.
  • Lawyer: 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.
  • Court: Disbarred.
  • Lawyer: Well, you didn’t have to say it like that.

Lay your bets indeed.

costanza

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