Sunday, December 24, 2006

Order of the Kneepads update: Nebraska Supreme Court suspends attorney who forged his client's signature and caused a notary to document the forgery for 1 year with probationary conditionsState ex rel. Counsel for Discipline. v. Riskowski, S-05-1168, 272 Neb. 781 Respondent attorney failed to deposit his client's divorce retainer in his trust account; agreed to suspend her temporary alimony with out permission; and submitted a property summary before trial with the client's forged and notarized signature. The referee recommended an 18 month suspension with probationary conditions. The Nebraska Supreme Court in a rare move drops the recommended suspension to one year. Although Respondent received a prior reprimand for mishandling a criminal appeal, he argued for a 90 day suspension. This time the Respondent's counsel's argument that there was no harm done because the Court didn't require the client to sign the exhibit may have carried the day and saved his client the disciplined attorney some suspension time. we find most troubling Riskowski's conduct with regard to preparation of his client's property statement. Riskowski, without his client's consent, forged his client's signature on the property statement and then instructed his secretary to notarize the document. The property statement was then submitted to the court. We have consistently imposed substantial sanctions for conduct of this nature. See, State ex rel. Counsel for Discipline. v. Rokahr, 267 Neb. 436, 675 N.W.2d 117 (2004) (1-year suspension for knowingly filing a back-dated easement); State ex rel. Counsel for Discipline. V. Mills, 267 nab. 57, 671 new 765 (2003) (2-year suspension based, in part, on altering and falsely acknowledging documents filed in county court). Riskowski asserts that his act of signing his client's signature and having the document notarized is in some way less reprehensible because the document would have been valid without the client's signature and notarization. We again disagree. Whether a client's signature and an acknowledgment before a notary are required on a document is irrelevant. The fact remains that Riskowski knowingly filed with the court a document containing a forged signature and an inaccurate notarization. A purposeful misrepresentation to a court is itself a serious violation, and Riskowski jeopardized his client's interest and the integrity of the court by doing so.

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