Attorney Misconduct

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Left to right: John Michael Farren, Scott Rothstein, Michael Margulies.


For some reason, today brings lots of news about lawyers and the criminal justice system. And we’re not talking about lawyers representing clients, but lawyers who are the clients: John Michael Farren, the former White House lawyer accused of attempting to murder his wife; Scott Rothstein, the Florida attorney who ran a massive Ponzi scheme; and Michael Margulies, the former Lindquist & Vennum partner who misappropriated millions in client money. We’ve decided to hit this rogues’ gallery in a single, omnibus post.

Let’s start with John Michael Farren, the former Bush Administration lawyer and Xerox general counsel charged with attempted murder and first-degree strangulation of his wife, Skadden counsel Mary Margaret Fadden. As reported by the ABA Journal, John Farren has posted $750,000 bail and been released to the “Institute of Living” — which sounds like a fancy spa where you eat seaweed and do yoga, but is actually a mental hospital in Hartford.

The news coverage also reveals that the wealthy couple’s divorce has been finalized. How were their millions distributed?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Trio of Misbehaving Lawyers: Some Updates”

One summer associate story from years past involved an SA who simply stopped showing up to work for several days. Given how big summer classes were back then (not like today), and how much misbehavior was tolerated in those halcyon days, it took a surprisingly long time for the perpetrator to get in trouble.

The fellow got no-offered. But some observers wondered whether his conduct really was that egregious, viewed against the standards of the time. Summer associates weren’t actually expected to, you know, work back then.

And summer associates don’t really have “clients.” Wisconsin lawyer Scott Fisher, who pulled a similar vanishing act, did….

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Lance David Lewis had one of the best jobs in the world. He was getting paid a couple grand a week, and he didn’t have to do any work for it. Too bad it wasn’t legit.

Early last month, the former Pennsylvania lawyer was finally disbarred with consent (meaning that he can’t defend the charges against him). Why?

Well, first, he was once charged with attempted murder. However, that charge was later dropped, and he pleaded guilty to some misdemeanor assault charges. Hell, who hasn’t that happen to them at least once or twice?

Oh, and he also swindled a portion of a settlement away from one of his clients. So, thus far, he’s batting 2 for 2.

What really accelerated Lewis’s downfall from the law? Lance David Lewis may very well be one of the first e-discovery contract attorneys to be disbarred for his malfeasance on a document review project — or, better put, off of a document review project.

In nine months, Lewis managed to rake in nearly $80,000 for work he never performed, contracting at a law firm via a staffing agency.  In this case, the staffing agency was HireCounsel, and the law firm was Pepper Hamilton.

So how was he able to pull this off?  The Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Pennsylvania Bar lays this out in pretty excruciating detail….

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Quick, somebody call the Waahmbulance

The language police are out in force. The ABA Journal reports that a lawyer’s bad language, used in public, has triggered an ethics inquiry:

A township lawyer in New Jersey is facing the wrath of an animal rights group after he used the C-word to describe one of its demonstrators.

Lawyer Richard Shackleton now faces an ethics grievance and a privately filed criminal complaint as a result of the Feb. 20 dustup outside the Philadelphia Gun Club where the group was protesting, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. Shackleton had taken part in a live pigeon shoot, and as he left, he yelled at a protester, who also happened to be a lawyer. “Go f— yourself, you rotten c—,” he screamed.

Now, I’m not going to defend the language. The “c-word” isn’t part of my functional vocabulary. I don’t even use it in private. I think the c-word is a “fighting word,” so even if I wanted to use it, my general desire to avoid getting punched in the face would prevent me from saying it.

But an ethics inquiry? Really? Despite the fact that I’m a person who is regularly subjected to epithets of all kinds, I still don’t want to live in a society where public insults turn into ethics grievances and criminal complaints.

Perhaps things have gone this far because Shackleton wouldn’t apologize for his potty mouth…

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Back in the summer of 2008, we wrote a post entitled “Summer Associates of the Day: Sapphic Summers in Lesbianic Lip-Lock.” The title of the post pretty much says it all.

Well, it turns out that a partner at the same firm, Minneapolis-based Lindquist & Vennum, may have been misbehaving too. The Pioneer Press reports that Michael S. Margulies, a leading Twin Cities real estate lawyer, has been accused of professional misconduct — in the form of “misappropriat[ing] significant sums from a limited number of clients and from the firm,” according to a statement by the firm. Margulies has withdrawn from the firm’s partnership, reported his conduct to Minnesota’s professional responsibility office, and agreed to be disbarred. He has also resigned from the St. Paul Planning Commission, where he served several terms under different mayors.

What prompted this alleged theft? It seems that Michael Margulies, former head of Lindquist’s real estate group, may have loved real estate not wisely, but too well. From the Pioneer Press:

Margulies, 56, of St. Paul, and his personal company, Triad Services, were sued in Ramsey County District Court by a real estate development company for which he had worked as an attorney, secretary and treasurer. In the lawsuit, CMB Minnetonka LLC alleged that Margulies “made numerous illicit withdrawals” from CMB’s bank account and line of credit at Highland Bank and used the money — $1.5 million or more — for his own purposes.

Specifically, the suit claims Margulies spent the money to overhaul the historic mansion at 516 Summit Ave. in St. Paul that he owned with his former wife.

So he allegedly did it all for love of a house. Was it worth it? Just how nice is this pile o’ bricks?

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Prestige has a price. Former Greenberg Traurig partner Mark McCombs found a sucker to foot the bill for him. As we reported earlier this month, he was the village attorney to Calumet Park, Illinois. He was charged with bilking the village of over one million dollars — money he allegedly sought not for personal gain, but to impress his Chicago partners with his book of business.

Greenberg Traurig has reviewed his overbilling and discovered that it was actually in the multi-millions. The Southtown Star reports that the firm has reviewed McCombs’s billing of Calumet Park dating back to 2002, when he joined the firm, and will be returning $3.2 million to the village of Calumet Park. That takes a chunk out of Greenberg’s PPP this year.

Village records show McCombs billed the village for tens of thousands of dollars each month for work that apparently never was done. He helped himself to property tax revenue that flowed into accounts of Calumet Park’s five tax increment financing districts.

After the jump, Greenberg Traurig managing shareholder Paul Fox says there is an upside to all this, and we have an UPDATE from the firm…

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john michael farren.jpgIn January, a former Bush Administration lawyer was charged with attempted murder after allegedly strangling and beating his wife, a counsel at Skadden Arps. John Michael Farren, 57, served as deputy counsel to the president under President George W. Bush, as general counsel at Xerox Corp., and as Under Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush.

But if the allegations against him are true, this impressive résumé — and the wealth that came with it (more on that later) — didn’t stop J. Michael Farren from brutally attacking his wife, Mary Margaret Farren, an energy lawyer at Skadden. Mary Farren filed a $30 million lawsuit against her husband shortly after the alleged attack.

Last week, the Washington Post published a detailed profile of Mike Farren. It painted a picture of a man with some serious rage issues.

Highlights from the profile — plus additional tidbits we’ve gathered, including photos of the Farrens’ multimillion-dollar home in Connecticut, records of Michael Farren’s sales of Xerox stock, and his salary as a White House staffer — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “All You Ever Wanted to Know About John Michael Farren, The Ex-Bush Lawyer Charged With Attempted Murder Of His Skadden Counsel Wife”

lawyers-gone-bad.jpgA bunch of North Carolina lawyers have been busted for a scam they were running in the Johnston County courts. They “schemed to make drunken driving cases disappear,” reports the News & Observer.
Two lawyers, Chad Lee and Lee Hatch, have lost their law licenses and are heading to prison for four years. Two more, Jack McLamb and Vann Sauls, are on probation for three years. A former prosecutor who allegedly aided in the plot, Cindy Jaeger, still faces charges.
And all five are suffering the embarrassment of running a scam that didn’t seem to really benefit them in any way.

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Jean Valjean.JPGJean Valjean once stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving family during a down economy in France. Despite this crime, Valjean is regarded as a hero who stole only when it was absolutely necessary, then devoted his life to helping others and serving God.
I thought of the Les Misérables story when I read a distressing tale on the ABA Journal this morning:

California bar officials are blaming the recession for an increase in lawyers being investigated for pilfering client funds or collecting fees to modify mortgages without doing anything to help.
The State Bar of California is investigating 1,200 loan modification cases and more than 300 lawyers who were involved, the Fresno Bee reports. More lawyers are also being accused of mishandling client funds, according to Carol Langford, a lawyer who defends lawyers accused of ethical wrongdoing. Most of the lawyers under investigation were retired or relatively new to practice, the story says.

Hmm … I just don’t know if “Les Avocats” will be quite as catchy.
Should we feel sorry for California lawyers forced into a life of crime?

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Bad Report Card.jpgLoren Friedman earned Lawyer of the Day honors here back in 2008, when the then-Curtis Mallet associate was busted for doctoring his law school grades from the University of Chicago, by changing Cs into Bs and As.

Almost two years after the ethics complaint against Friedman was filed, the Illinois Review Board has rendered its verdict.

(We’re a little late in bringing you the news; the Legal Profession Blog noted the judgment last week.)

Good news for the unethical. Fudging your grades will get you gigs at Skadden Arps and Sidley Austin, but won’t get you disbarred. At least not in Illinois. Instead, the Board proposed an 18-month suspension, reduced from the three year sentence previously recommended.

UPDATE / CLARIFICATION: As noted by a commenter, Friedman won’t automatically be reinstated after 18 months. Rather, because the suspension is 18 months “and until further order of the court” (UFO), he will have to “satisfy his obligation of establishing his character and fitness before resuming practice.”

No big deal. Friedman has other things to occupy his time these days….

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