The Talent

June 7, 2010 5:45 PM

Georgia Supreme Court Tells Ex-Greenberg Associate to Try Again

Posted by Brian Baxter

Michael J.C. Shaw, a former bankruptcy and foreclosure associate at Greenberg Traurig who billed nearly $500,000 under an assumed name, had his request for voluntary suspension rejected for the second time in three months by the Supreme Court of Georgia. (Hat Tip: Legal Profession Blog.)

The five-page per curiam opinion handed down on June 7, which is not yet final, rejects Shaw's second petition for a two-to-four-year suspension of his law license as a result of performing investigative services for his own clients between 2003 and 2009.

The Fulton County Daily Report, a sibling publication, reported in March on the Georgia Supreme Court's first rejection of a proposed sanction by Shaw of between six months and a year. A concurring opinion by associate justice David Nahmias took Shaw and the State Bar of Georgia to task for recommending such a light punishment given the serious ethical breaches in his conduct.

"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 identity theft and misuse of someone else's social security number," wrote Nahmias, a former federal prosecutor. "His multiyear, multifaceted scheme ended only when he was caught."

Shaw bilked Greenberg out of $493,000 by using the name of an independent investigator to bill clients for investigate services he performed himself out of the firm's Atlanta office. From 2005 through 2009, Shaw expanded his scheme to perform title examinations and skip traces under two fake identities. Greenberg promptly fired Shaw once it learned of the scam and reported him to the Georgia Bar.

Shaw had hoped that mitigating factors like his own personal issues--he claims to have had trouble dealing with the deaths of his grandparents and a miscarriage by his wife--coupled with the $526,922 in restitution he paid to Greenberg would be considered when requesting a retroactive suspension. His second request lengthened the amount of time he would be prevented from practicing law in Georgia and made reinstatement conditional upon a favorable recommendation from a medical professional.

But evidently that wasn't enough for Georgia's high court to reverse its previous position.

"Having once again carefully reviewed the record and the factors in mitigation, the Court...finds that a two-to-four-year suspension is an inappropriate sanction in view of the scope and extent of Shaw's fraudulent and deceptive conduct," the justices wrote in a unanimous opinion.

Paula Frederick, general counsel of the Georgia Bar, told The Am Law Daily on Monday that the organization now objects to any sanction short of disbarment for Shaw should he make a third voluntary petition for discipline.

Shaw's lawyer, Johannes Kingma at Atlanta's Carlock, Copeland & Stair, was in court on Monday and not immediately available for comment. Peter Werdesheim, another partner at the firm representing Shaw, would only say that the court's ruling spoke for itself. He declined to comment further.

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