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 blog 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!











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.


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About jcorsmeier

Joseph A. Corsmeier is an “AV” rated attorney practicing in Clearwater, Florida. He concentrates his practice primarily in the areas of defense of attorney disciplinary matters before The Florida Bar, attorney admission matters before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and professional license and disciplinary matters before the Boards of the State of Florida. He provides expert analysis and opinion on conflict of interest and other attorney disqualification and legal malpractice issues and he testified as an expert in the Florida courts. He served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Sixth Judicial Circuit from 1986 to 1990 where he prosecuted felonies exclusively from June 1987, and as Bar Counsel for The Florida Bar’s Department of Lawyer Regulation from 1990 to 1998. He also practices in the areas of estate planning and Medicaid qualification, workers’ compensation, and labor law. Mr. Corsmeier is the author of numerous articles for various bar publications, has spoken at numerous local and statewide seminars on various topics, including ethics and professionalism, and was an instructor of legal ethics for paralegals at Rollins College until the Tampa campus closed. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State University and his J.D. from Mercer University. He is admitted to practice in all Florida Courts, the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the Middle District of Florida. He is a member of The Florida Bar, American Bar Association, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Bar Associations.
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