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Lawyer Suspended for Helping Client Commit Crime

Hey Lawyer, Remember Your Oath

The Florida Supreme Court found that lawyer Charles Paul-Thomas Phoenix assisted his client in defrauding investors in vacation rental units and falsifying federal mortgage documents. Phoenix was suspended for two years.

Criminals, of course, are entitled to legal representation; but they are never entitled to legal assistance in committing crimes. Any lawyer who abuses the law license in this way deserves, in my opinion, to be disbarred completely rather than just suspended. Any time the penalty is not enough to deter the crime—for example, if a bank robber was only required to pay back half of what he stole—then you will see more crime.

That’s why corporate crime is increasing. Big companies almost never have to pay back even a fraction of what they steal in illegal fees or other scams. We should be careful not to let those perverse temptations into our profession. Lawyers that break the rules must be punished severely enough to deter anyone else who might be seduced by greed.

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