Stay Classy, New Jersey: Lawyer Gets Slap on the Wrist For…Forgery??

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.

2 thoughts on “Stay Classy, New Jersey: Lawyer Gets Slap on the Wrist For…Forgery??

  1. I may be wrong, but isn’t forgery against the law? Would this not be considered a criminal act? It is like a politician “forgetting” certain facts when filing for taxes.

    If a common citizen did this they would be in jail in no time flat. How far have we fallen that some people are above the law while others are below it?

    Of course, I could be wrong as I do not live in New Jersaaaaaaay.

  2. The New Jersey disciplinary panel’s result is stunningly misguided.

    Quite apart from the question of whether someone who would forge a signature is fit for practice as an attorney, there is the question of maintaining public confidence both in the administration of justice, and in the legal profession.

    Allowing someone to practice after committing forgery – an act of deception – undermines both.

    I can only hope there is some kind of mechanism where the decision can be reviewed.

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