The Legal Profession Blog reports that a New Jersey lawyer Donald Bedell Jr. has been reprimanded for forging two clients’ signatures on releases for an unauthorized settlement, appending his own signature as a “witness,” and then attesting that both clients had appeared before him to sign.
Not suspended. Not disbarred. Reprimanded.
In giving the attorney what amounts to a slap on the wrist for a text-book example of attorney dishonesty implicating trustworthiness, the Court said it considered as mitigating factors…
“…respondent’s admission of wrongdoing; his acceptance of responsibility for his actions; his expression of sincere contrition and genuine remorse; his apology to Malzone and Hibberd; his “serious health problems” at the time (cavernous transformation of portal and splenic vein with established thrombosis), which necessitated at least two surgeries; the unlikelihood that his conduct would be repeated; the isolated nature of the incident; the absence of personal gain; the lack of injury to the clients; and the lack of a disciplinary record.”
Of course he was sorry. Of course he apologized. All right, he was sick: how does a circulatory problem excuse dishonesty, unless blood wasn’t flowing to his brain? How the court is so sure a lawyer who forged the signatures of his clients once can be trusted not to do it again, I have no clue.
When legal reform advocates argue that lawyer discipline should be taken out of the hands of courts and lawyers, this is what they are talking about.
You can read the court’s ruling here.