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NY lawyer receives 6 month suspension conviction after conviction of misdemeanor larceny for submitting false paid leave request document

Hello welcome to this edition of the JACPA Ethics Alert which will discuss another New York appellate opinion which suspended a lawyer for 6 months after she pled guilty to one count of petit larceny for falsifying a paid leave request while employed by a New York public school.  The case is: In the Matter of Brenna L. Stewart, 2010 NY Slip Op 03047 [74 AD3d 51] April 15, 2010.

According to the opinion, the lawyer was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York on January 23, 1995.  In 2005, the lawyer submitting a false document to her then employer, a New York public school, in order to receive paid leave to which she was not entitled.  The false document was an altered death certificate that she used to improperly obtain paid bereavement leave.  On September 3, 2008, the pled guilty to and was convicted of one count of petit larceny, a class A misdemeanor, for criminal charges brought against her.  On October 10, 2008, she was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge (dismissal after compliance with conditions).

The NY Appellate Court issued an order finding that the criminal charge was a “serious crime” and directed a hearing panel to hold a hearing and recommend the appropriate sanction.  The panel heard evidence of the lawyer’s extensive pro bono legal and community service, and considered “the convergence of personal, medical, financial and emotional problems upon her at the time of her misconduct”, her remorse, and the fact that restitution had been paid to the Department of Education.  The panel recommended a suspension of six months and the opinion approved that recommendation and suspended the lawyer for 6 months.

Bottom line:  Not sure what this lawyer was thinking, but this is a clear example of how lawyers can be disciplined for conduct outside of the practice of law.  The Supreme Court of Florida has consistently stated in its disciplinary opinions that “a lawyer, is a lawyer, is a lawyer” and Florida lawyers can and will be disciplined for such misconduct.

Please be careful out there!

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.





My law firm focuses on review, analysis, and interpretation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, advice and representation of lawyers in Bar disciplinary matters, defense of applicants for admission to The Florida Bar before the Board of Bar Examiners, defense of all Florida licensed professionals in discipline and admission matters before all state agencies and boards, expert ethics opinions, and practice management for lawyers and law firms.  If there is a lawyer or other Florida professional license involved, I can defend the complaint or help you get your license.

If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (727) 799-1688 or e-mail me at [email protected].  You can find my law firm on the web at In addition to handling individual cases, matters, problems and issues for my clients, I also am on retainer to provide ethics advice to numerous lawyers and law firms throughout the state of Florida.  I also provide legal assistance and advice to numerous individuals and non-legal entities to help insure compliance with the law and rules related to UPL and other issues.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

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