Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent Michigan Disciplinary Board opinion recommending disbarment for lawyer who allegedly lied about his qualifications and participation on a U.S. Olympic team. The case is Michigan Grievance Administrator, v. Ali S. Zaidi, Case No. 14-117-GA (January 11, 2017). The Disciplinary Board’s opinion is here: https://www.adbmich.org/coveo/opinions/2017-01-11-14o-117.pdf
According to the Board opinion, the lawyer made misrepresentations that “run the gamut from outlandish and extravagant to what might be termed modifications of his record inspired by some actual events”. The lawyer misrepresented and inflated the time of his employment and invented fictional summer associate positions at law firms where he worked at other times. He was employed for short periods by law firms in Connecticut and Missouri and he falsely claimed that he was admitted to practice in those states.
The lawyer also falsely claimed that he was on the 1996 U.S. Olympic field hockey team and that he had a master of liberal arts from Harvard University. He also maintained a website that represented that his law firm, called Great Lakes Legal Group, was associated with multiple lawyers at several locations around the country. The lawyer admitted that this representation was false and that law firm was just an “idea that is still in progress.”
A disciplinary hearing was scheduled before a Board panel. The lawyer requested that the hearing be continued because of a birthday party for his children and later because he could not obtain child care. The request was denied and the hearing was held without his presence. The panel found the lawyer guilty, found numerous aggravating factors, and recommended disbarment.
The lawyer filed a petition for review claiming that he missed the hearing because his daughter was recovering from surgery on her eye; however, the disciplinary board found that the lawyer had been provided proper notice and upheld the decision not to continue the hearing.
The lawyer appeared at the sanctions hearing before the panel and admitted that he made misrepresentations regarding his qualifications since he was “scared nobody would hire me if they realized why I was moving around so much…and I wanted to create this impression of longevity and create this impression of consistency of my movements.”
According to the Board opinion, the lawyer “did not present any coherent reason or evidence for his conduct that could be viewed as mitigating, in part, he claimed, because he did not want to inconvenience his character witnesses. Furthermore, he failed to present any argument on what sanction would be appropriate.”
The Board opinion found that, “(c)ollectively, (the lawyer’s) actions are indicative of a cumulative pattern of a lack of honesty and candor, which is contrary to the fundamental characteristics of an attorney. Although respondent does not have any prior discipline, there is no question he has an established track record of deceit. Given the number and pattern of violations, respondent’s dishonesty, and his overall lack of candor and cooperation, the panel properly found that disbarment is appropriate in this case.”
Bottom line: This a somewhat bizarre case, to put it mildly. The lawyer appears to have a problem with the truth and apparently tried to justify his actions with self-serving excuses. The Michigan Supreme Court will now review the case and determine the sanction.
Be careful out there.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
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