Nice Guy, Unethical Lawyer

A Massachusetts lawyer, Daniel Szostkiewicz, tried to help out a former client by hiring her as his receptionist in August 2007. She asked him to pay her “under the table,” so she could keep state health benefits for her husband, who was ill. Szostkiewicz agreed. Six months later, he fired her, and his ex-receptionist applied for unemployment. This led to the state discovering the undisclosed payment arrangement.

Szostkiewicz has received a three-month suspension, with all but one month stayed as long as he allows his law firm to be audited.

I think he got off too easy. The lawyer was facilitating fraud on the state, exactly the kind of conduct a lawyer must never engage in, no matter how much he may want to help someone. The Mass Bar reasoned that he deserved a lighter punishment because “the respondent’s conduct did not involve a legal matter, although it did involve his law practice. In further mitigation, the respondent was not motivated by a desire to benefit personally from the arrangement with his employee.” OK, he was trying to be a nice guy. I agree. But why should it matter whether a lawyer helps someone break the law in the course of practicing law, or just does his law-breaking assistance on the side, as a hobby? Is it really excessively strict to insist that lawyers neither break the law themselves nor help others do it, and that they pay a steep price if they do, whatever the context? An ethical lawyer’s ethics alarm should start ringing the second anyone wants his or her participation in a fraudulent scheme. If it doesn’t, something is seriously wrong, and the fact that his motives may have been pure shouldn’t be the controlling factor in deciding appropriate punishment.

As is often the case, I may be on the minority within my profession here. The early comments on the story show most lawyers sympathizing with Nice Guy Szostkiewicz.  I don’t get it. If he facilitates fraud on the state, he’s Unethical Lawyer Szostkiewicz to me.

6 thoughts on “Nice Guy, Unethical Lawyer

  1. Didn’t he benefit by not having to offer her health/dental benefits and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes? Additionally, he was complicit in a fraud for her to avoid paying income taxes.

    The only way I would see him avoiding those charges would be if he hired her as a consultant and she was responsible for recording the taxes and income appropriately, which, is not what it sounds like. If that were the case, I don’t think he’d be in much trouble…

    • Dan is the worst lawyer/human being you can possibly imagine. I know – I hired him to represent me. He has ZERO respect for women (including his new wife), couldn’t run a coffee maker (never mind a law practice) and is wholly incompetent. He lives in Mommy’s basement for a reason – he’s bankrupt financially, morally, ethically and deserves to be in JAIL.

      Hopefully, that’s exactly where he’ll go once his trial is over – on assault and battery charges. He knocked around his ex-wife. Great guy huh?

      Rot in hell Dan..

      • I found this when EthicsAlarms wrote about his mouthwash post, didn’t link to it, mentioned it ran in August 2010, and then started browsing through August 2010 articles. When I read about the “Nice Guy” case, I thought, “He’s probably sleeping with her,” googled the nice guy, and found that yes, he was indeed convicted of assault and battery:

        http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/08/ex-holyoke_mayor_dan_szostkiew.html

        Also, he was apparently the mayor?

        Mr. EthicsAlarms, what are your thoughts on the “broken windows”-like theory that often small crimes indicate an overall criminal mindset?

        • Broken windows is a theory that fits observation and common sense.When society allows small social misconduct without appearing to care, standards slide, and the misconduct, and the conduct tolerated, gets progressively worse. We’re seeing this process now in de Blasio’s New York City.

  2. Pingback: The Ethical Lawyer » Blog Archive » Nice guy; unethical act

  3. He’s NOT a nice guy, get it right.

    Danny boy is hopefully 1.) In jail 2.) in his own personal hell 3.) single, now that Deb got smart and left him or 4.) a combination of 1,2 and 3. It’s possible he’s dead, in which case humanity wins.

    The only downside?

    Those of us who he wronged, don’t get to see him suffer. I wouldn’t p1ss on you if you were on fire, Dan.

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