Think Altering Your Documents is No Biggie? Think Again.
Image: David Castillo Dominici/Creative Commons
A few years back, the New York Law Journal published a decision describing how one attorney went more that a little too far to represent his clients.
"What did he do?" you ask.
He pulled a bait-and-switch with regard to documents that he sent the Court and his adversary.
More specifically, he altered documents in the course of litigation related to breach of insurance agreements, sending one set of documents to his adversary, while filing another, more comprehensive (and sometimes fictitious) set of documents with the Court.
Why Filing Altered, or Fictitious Documents is a Really Big Deal
You might think it's really not that big a deal; after all, the "mistake" was discovered, and no harm, no foul .... right?
The court sought to have him disbarred, i.e., to take away his license to practice law.
Consider: in response to the allegations against him, the attorney claimed that these discrepancies were the result of mere "clerical errors," and that he had no malicious intent in filing these papers. New York's Appellate Division, Second Department disagreed.
Noting that he had been caught doing this on multiple occasions (you have to wonder how many times he did this and wasn't caught), including where he submitted papers to the court seeking summary judgment (relief that seeks to have the court resolve the case in his favor absent a trial) that bore parties' signatures, and the set he served on the other side did not have those signatures.
In fact, in one case he presented entirely different sworn statements to the court and to his adversary.
What the Appellate Court Did
In disbarring the attorney, the Appellate court stated as follows:
"The sheer volume of documents at issue dispels the respondent's arguments that he is innocent of conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and/or conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. His conduct goes to the very core of the judicial system."
In short, if you think being caught lying about documents or perpetrating a fraud on the court is no big deal, you would clearly be mistaken.
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