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Recently in legal news
- A judge is suspended for presiding over her courtroom “in a manner befitting a game show host”
- A court reporter who has missed deadlines is ordered to report to jail with her equipment if she can’t meet final delivery date
- A lawyer in New York pleads guilty to a massive trip-and-fall fraud scheme
- An attorney is suspended for pretending to be a different lawyer to get around a suspension
- After billing more than 24 hours per day, a lawyer is suspended and disbarred
Judge Pinkey Suzanne Carr suspended indefinitely after Ohio Supreme Court finds her courtroom manner reckless
The Ohio Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended Judge Pinkey Suzanne Carr, stating that she presided over her court in a reckless manner and “conducted business in a manner befitting a game show host.”
She must remain off the bench during the duration of her suspension without pay. The Court cites reasons for suspension including:
- Arbitrarily issuing warrants and making false statements
- Engaging in ex parte communications, improper plea bargaining, and arbitrary dispositions in 34 cases
- Improperly using warrants and bonds
- Lack of decorum and dignity, including both behavior and personal appearance
- Abusing contempt power
One complaint about Judge Carr alleges that she set hearings without notifying the defendants or clerk’s office. When those defendants failed to appear, she issued warrants and set bonds between $2,500 and $25,000.
When Carr finally discontinued the no-notice hearings, she spelled out the B-word when giving this explanation in open court: “You notice I’m no longer the bill collector for the clerk’s office. I’m not your b- – – -. See, you get it? Collect your own money. There you go, player, mm-hmm. Collect your own money, player, mm-hmm. I’m not your b- – – -. Run tell that, mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. How you like them apples? Suckas.” (Via ABA Journal)
Carr stated that her generalized anxiety disorder and mood disorder due to sleep apnea, menopause, and stress were to blame for her behavior and should be considered as a mitigating factor in the ethics case. The State Supreme Court disagreed that mental disorders were a mitigating factor and imposed an indefinite suspension, though two dissenters would have imposed a two-year suspension.
Court reporter Beverly Dixon of Texas must meet her deadline or work from jail
Beverly Dixon, a court reporter in Texas, blamed her missed deadlines on attorneys at Holland & Knight who she claims called at least twice per day and questioned her professionalism. However, the Twelfth Court of Appeals found Dixon in contempt after she sought four extensions and missed her last deadline set on September 22.
After the show-cause hearing on October 24, Dixon was fined $500 and ordered to complete the first two volumes of trial record by October 25 and the final two by October 31.
If Dixon misses the Oct. 31 deadline, she will have to bring her equipment to the Smith County Jail and work on completing her work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, the appeals court said. A deputy will supervise her work, and she will have to eat her lunch “on the premises.” Dixon will have to continue reporting to jail until the completed court record is accepted and filed. (Via ABA Journal)
This is not the only incident of missed deadlines. The appeals court ordered that a complaint be issued against Dixon in connection with this case and six others.
Holland & Knight holds forth that they only called once, and their client has concerns that Dixon has lost records in their case. The attorneys also point out that none of the court reporter’s requests for extensions mentioned incessant phone calls as a cause of concern.
New York injury attorney Marc Elefant pleads guilty to slip-and-fall fraud scheme
Personal injury lawyer Marc Elefant has pled guilty to a massive fraud scheme that included fake slip-and-fall incidents, staged accidents, and even unnecessary surgeries performed on individuals who desperately needed money.
Elefant reportedly recruited many of his scheme participants at homeless shelters around the city. Other attorneys and doctors have also pled guilty in this case.
The Patients were also instructed to receive ongoing chiropractic and medical treatment from certain chiropractors and doctors, including RIBEIRO. The fraud scheme participants advised the Patients that if they intended to continue with their lawsuits, they were required to undergo surgery. As an incentive to getting surgery, the recruited Patients were offered a payment of typically between $1,000 and $1,500 after they completed surgery (“Post-Surgery Payments”). Patients generally were told to undergo two surgeries. Doctors in the fraud scheme were expected to, and in fact did, conduct these surgeries regardless of the legitimate medical needs of the Patients. (Via Justice.gov)
Elefant reached a plea agreement and agreed to forfeit $955,281 to the United States and to make restitution in the amount of $1,486,000. He is scheduled for sentencing in January 2023.
Suspended attorney Ralph Gonzalez receives a one-year suspension after allegedly impersonating another lawyer
Attorney Ralph Gonzalez, a solo practitioner from New Jersey, was on a three-month suspension following a road range incident when he apparently tried to pass himself off as another attorney to attend a hearing.
Gonzalez called the Motor Vehicle Commission to ask about rescheduling a hearing for a friend, Christopher Stoner, who was facing a drivers license suspension. Gonzalez gave his own name and phone number during this call.
When Stoner and Gonzalez arrived to the hearing, the pre-hearing conference was held in an area where only drivers, attorneys, and interpreters were permitted to enter. Those entering were required to show identification.
Gonzalez showed a business card that read “John A. Underwood, Attorney At Law,” the board said. He was asked to show his driver’s license, but said he didn’t have it with him. The employee offered to look him up on the Motor Vehicle Commission computer using his Social Security number, but he declined, the board said. Stoner and Gonzalez then conferred privately, and then Stoner reported that his attorney would not be participating because of a lack of identification. A hearing was held in which the commission reduced Stoner’s license suspension to 20 days. (Via Law.com)
A Motor Vehicle Commission employee conducted a search and found that the picture of John A. Underwood on the firm’s website did not look like Gonzalez. The employee noticed the earlier phone call in Stoner’s file and searched for Ralph A. Gonzalez, Attorney at Law, which led them to Gonzalez’s website and photograph. The employee recognized Gonzalez from the incident at the hearing.
Gonzalez denied that he represented himself as John Underwood, and also denied that he was representing Stoner at the hearing. He claims that he attended simply for moral support.
The ethics commission found that Gonzalez’s claims were not credible. They found that he was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he made the call and appeared for the hearing, and that he impersonated another person with the business card. Further, they cited that this misconduct was aggravated by three prior incidents of discipline.
West Virginia attorney David R. Tyson is suspended and disbarred after billing more than 24 hours per day multiple times in his representation of indigent clients
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals accepted the petition for the disbarment of lawyer David R. Tyson, who was admitted to the bar in 1980. The specifics of the disbarment case were not made public because of Tyson’s agreement to his license annulment.
However, details of the suspension are available. Tyson overbilled the Public Defenders Services Corp. by claiming more than 24 hours per day of work in some cases.
He admitted allegations in a first count that he charged more than 24 hours on each of four different days, and that he charged 15 hours or more on each day for an additional 11 days. He also admitted allegations in a second count that he charged more than 24 hours per day on three different days and 15 hours or more each day for an additional 25 days. (Via ABA Journal)
Tyson is also accused of failing to file divorce proceedings on behalf of his client, though Tyson holds that the failure to file was due to client indecision.