What is going on? Paralegals facing charges!
February, 2014, NJ/ MO- In February, 2014, in the East Coast and the Midwest two paralegals for two different reason have been charged with felonies. Let’s talk about the paralegal from the East Coast first.
According to the Atlantic City Press, a paralegal in New Jersey was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The paralegal is alleged to have made false statements and used props to make it appear that her clients sustained injuries, which helped the client win immigration to US. The Atlantic City Press further reports that the attorneys, who employed the paralegal were also charged with co-conspiracy and fraud. (Cohen, 2014)
This make me pounder the question—If a paralegal knows that what his or her attorney is asking him or her to do then does the paralegal have to follow through with the request? I am going on the limb here and saying “no way”. Part of being a paralegal is knowing what is ethically appropriate to do and not do. In a case, of false statements, and the using of props to further a case is flat out wrong.
Part of a paralegal’s job is to help attorneys avoid malpractice, fraud and other unethical actions, which could harm the legal profession. However, in the case of this paralegal it is unclear whether she was acting on her own or under the direction of her employer. Nonetheless, the paralegal in this case in my opinion is professionally obligated to speak up if the firm was engaging or requesting her to engage in fraud.
I am not sure how I feel about the possible repercussions of this case on the paralegal profession, if any. Despite, my mixed feelings– this case does support my belief that paralegals’ have a duty and the right to say “no that is wrong” if they are ever in a position whereby the attorney employing them says, do X and X is fraudulent, unethical, goes against the American Bar Association, Local Bar Association, or US Law.
I would hope that everyone in the United States feels the way I do about have a social responsibility to do what is right and ethically correct even if they are not part of the legal community. However, this belief should hold double for paralegals, attorneys, and judges because these professionals play an important in shaping our laws. To read the article about this case Visit: http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/crime/courts/former-paralegal-in-brigantine-fraudulently-helped-illegal-immigrants-gain-residency/article_89d8827c-9f2e-11e3-9bb8-001a4bcf887a.html
Ironically, in the same month the New Jersey paralegal was in court there was another paralegal in the Midwest charged with defrauding a client out of money for a fake bribe. In St, Louis, Missouri in February, 2014—The Post-Dispatch reported that a former paralegal took money from a client for payment on a so called bribe.
This Missouri case is slightly different from the New Jersey case in the sense that in it clear the Missouri paralegal was action were intentional. The former paralegal intentionally set out to commit fraud. To read more about the Missouri case visit: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/paralegal-charged-with-faking-plan-to-bribe-assistant-prosecutor-in/article_a7b2ed00-e911-5f7f-b372-118b43193ac6.html
I think the second case in Missouri is a prime example why the ABA’s guidelines for attorney states that law firm should strongly enforce that their attorneys and staff should shy away from becoming friends with clients. Furthermore, I am sure this Missouri case is why more and more states are thinking about licensing or enforcing certification of paralegals.
Nonetheless, these two cases are great examples of what paralegals should not do to get noticed.
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