Thursday, March 1, 2007

Disbarred Lawyer Can't Work as Paralegal

Nicholas J. Ellis thought that even though he had been disbarred, he would be able to work as a paralegal. Not so fast, said Justice Robert J. Cordy of the Worcester, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, as he prevented a potential ethical black hole from entering the paralegal profession.

Ellis was asked to resign from practicing law after pleading guilty to two counts of motor vehicle insurance fraud in 2002. That guilty plea resulted in a sentence from the Worcester Superior Court to serve six months of a two-and-one-half-year sentence in the House of Correction.

As an attorney, Ellis made fraudulent claims to John Hancock regarding his client's alleged disability. Ellis knew his client was not disabled, but proceeded to make the claims anyway.

What would stop him from committing egregious ethics violations as a paralegal? Ellis would not have a license to practice to lose. No, someone else's license would be on the line, and he could freely pass the buck to his employer.

As paralegals, we have a duty to our clients and our opposition to provide the facts. The true facts, not a set that our client has asked us to provide. Having someone who has pled guilty to fraud as a paralegal raises questions as to whether or not he can assist an attorney in the ethical representation of a client.

Additionally, the paralegal profession still has a veneer of newness. To this day, I still have not heard a single paralegal joke, such as an ambulance-chasing joke. At this point in time, it is important for paralegals to present themselves as professional and ethical, in order to advance the perception of the profession.

Justice Cordy ruled that Ellis's disclosures to the bar counsel were insufficient. According to the associate justice, information regarding Ellis's debts owed to clients, as well as sources of income and vocational activities, are very relevant to him being employed as a paralegal. Justice Cordy also noted that the proposed employer was a sole practicioner with office space next to Ellis's old firm.

In other words, Justice Cordy took a step toward preserving the integrity of the paralegal profession, a step that is most appreciated by this paralegal.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. Thanks for posting this. I'm relieved the judge banned this person from the legal profession altogether.


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