Sometimes smart lawyers do dumb things:

An appeals court in Brooklyn has disbarred an attorney who was convicted of criminal contempt for forging the signature of a Family Court judge during a post-divorce proceeding against her ex-husband.

A unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, Second Department, said that it could not offer a lesser sentence for the attorney, Mary K. Henning, despite her otherwise unblemished record….

Mary Henning, a former litigator at Kaplan & Winkler in White Plains, was not accused of forging the signature in her capacity as an attorney. She and her former husband, Robert A. Ritz, were divorced in 1999. In 2000, they agreed to spend equal time with their children, and Ritz signed a stipulation to that effect.

Ritz said that Judge Joan O. Cooney, the supervising judge of the family courts in the 9th Judicial District, had not signed the stipulation when it was given to him. But Henning later gave the document to school authorities as proof of residence, so she could collect a $16,750 refund for out-of-district tuition. The document had what looked like a “J” on Judge Cooney’s signature line.

We’d be interested in seeing the allegedly forged document. Getting disbarred for one teensy letter — isn’t that a bit harsh? Could the “J” have been a random stray mark? Or maybe a photocopying error? As any paralegal can tell you, if you don’t wipe the glass clean before copying, you will get smudges.
C’mon, Mary, think outside the box!
Panel Disbars Attorney For Forging Judge’s Name [New York Law Journal]


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