U.S. Sixth Circuit - The FindLaw 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Lawyer Suspended for Lending Name

Letting anyone sign your name to anything without at least a cursory review is inviting trouble. Just ask the semi-retired lawyer who's now facing a 90-day suspension for a secretary at his firm basically using his name on boilerplate forms, without his review, in social security administration cases.

And while the bulk of the practice consisted of submitting form pleadings to the court without much care or attention, in one of those case, the court found the legal work so deficient it ordered the attorney to personally deliver a copy of the court's order to the client and instruct the client to carefully read the order. That order called the attorney incompetent. Somehow, another attorney at the firm decided it would be a good idea for them to sign the other attorney's name and do the delivering.

Your Name Is Your Responsibility

It would seem that the semi-retired lawyer had basically authorized his firm to use his name. The court was not very sympathetic to the attorney, as it basically found that he had let greed get the better of him. Officially, the attorney was found to be knowingly derelict in his duty to supervise, as well as found to have submitted a false statement to the court by allowing his signature to be signed to pleadings he never reviewed.

As the court explained:

A lawyer's good name and professional reputation are his primary stock in trade, an asset to be cultivated and safeguarded throughout his career-even after ceasing the active practice of law...

This case presents a sad example of a decent lawyer, who, in the autumn of a successful career, became careless in permitting the use of his name for improper purposes and needlessly brought dishonor on himself, his firm, the profession, and the justice system. In this appeal, the sadness is compounded by the lawyer's refusal to acknowledge his own misfeasance and his insistence on blaming others. Finding that the appellate arguments warrant only short shrift, we summarily affirm the order of discipline.

Despite the strong words, the attorney only received a 90-day suspension.

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