Supremes slap State Bar over discipline in $493K ripoff
The Georgia Supreme Court today told the State Bar of Georgia it was too easy on a lawyer who admitted taking $493,000 from his employer.
Over a six-year period, Michael J.C. Shaw billed the firm $403,000 under a fictitious name for title examinations, the court said today. Shaw pocketed another $90,000 through invoices submitted under the name of a private investigator who performed similar services for the firm.
The firm fired Shaw after discovering the deception in June 2009 in the course of a client’s billing review.
The high court today unanimously rejected the State Bar’s recommendation that Shaw be suspended from practicing law for six to 12 months.
A somewhat incredulous Justice David Nahmias, a former federal prosecutor, said in a concurring opinion that Shaw is lucky not to be in prison:
In my view, Michael J.C. Shaw is fortunate not to be incarcerated in a state or federal prison for the half-million-dollar fraud he perpetrated against his employer, along with related crimes such as identify theft and misuse of someone else’s social security number. … I write to express how troubling I find it that Shaw and, even worse, the State Bar apparently believe that such a short “break” from practicing law is appropriate discipline for his extended, extensive, and serious misconduct, notwithstanding the factors he presents in mitigation. I expect that most members of the Bar, and almost every citizen in this State, would be equally disturbed by that concept of attorney discipline.
Presiding Justice George Carley concurred in Nahmias’ statement.