Lawyer jokes notwithstanding, most lawyers are ethical, honorable, and competent. That’s why we tend to focus on attorney misbehavior in these pages; it’s more newsworthy. If a lawyer complies with the law or serves a client well, that’s not exactly “news”; it’s what lawyers are supposed to do, and what most lawyers do most of the time.
Alas, sometimes lawyers fall short of our profession’s high standards. Today we look at allegations of a high-ranking government lawyer abusing the perks of his office, a tax lawyer engaging in tax fraud, and a real estate lawyer who has people real mad — after taking $4 million from them.
Which of these attorneys deserves to be our Lawyer of the Day? We’ll describe their alleged misdeeds, outline the reasons for and against Lawyer of the Day honors, then let you vote for the winner….
The allegations: Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler stands accused of “regularly ordering state troopers to turn on the lights and sirens, speed and run red lights as they drove him to routine appointments,” and sometimes “he insisted on driving himself, once running four red lights.”
Pros: He’s a high-ranking government lawyer, the state’s top law enforcement official, and he’s seeking higher office by running for governor. Also, he supports opening another law school in Maryland (fifth link), which ought to be criminal.
Cons: These are just allegations right now — we have no adjudication or admission of guilt — and Gansler claims that they come from a “henchman” of one of his political opponents.
The allegations: Andrew Agard, a Hawaii personal injury attorney who touted his expertise in tax law, pleaded guilty to tax fraud. He earned approximately $630,000 in 2006 — apparently he was a rather successful PI lawyer — but reported gross income of under $300,000. He got sentenced to 20 months in federal prison and must also perform 100 hours of community service (hopefully not preparing people’s tax returns).
Pros: He’s a self-professed tax specialist who committed tax fraud. And these aren’t mere allegations; Agard pleaded guilty.
Cons: Personal injury lawyers are supposed to be aggressive, so perhaps that extends to their tax returns. And the cost of living in Hawaii is astronomical; can you really blame the guy for fudging the numbers a bit?
The allegations: Alice Belmonte, a disbarred real estate attorney, “bilked over $4 million from 10 would-be investors and boldly continued her Ponzi racket in other states after getting disbarred in New York, prosecutors said Thursday.” According to assistant district attorney Amy Justiniano, Belmonte “was a lawyer who people trusted and she violated that trust and stole right from under their noses…. [S]he’s willing to say anything and do anything to get what she needs.”
Pros: With all due respect to Justice Scalia, four million dollars is a lot of money.
Cons: Belmonte denies the allegations, claiming that people are just complaining because the investments didn’t work out. Even if the allegations are true, her Ponzi scheme pales in comparison to those carried out by lawyers like Marc Dreier and Scott Rothstein. Finally, since she was already disbarred, should she still be eligible for “Lawyer” of the Day honors?
Okay readers, time to vote:
Who deserves to be our Lawyer of the Day?
- Doug Gansler (Maryland Attorney General) (37%, 186 Votes)
- Alice Belmonte (New York real estate lawyer) (32%, 161 Votes)
- Andrew Agard (Hawaii personal injury lawyer) (31%, 154 Votes)
Total Voters: 501
Did state AG order troopers to speed and use sirens as they drove him to appointments? He denies it. [ABA Journal]
Attorney who said he was tax law specialist understates own income on return, gets 20 months
New York real estate lawyer charged with swindling $4 million from would-be investors in Ponzi scheme: authorities [New York Daily News]