Former BigLaw partner is suspended after writing himself checks from firm, claiming gambling addiction
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A former partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker has been suspended after an ethics panel concluded that he wrote himself checks from the law firm’s operating account and then lied about a gambling addiction.
Before seeking reinstatement, Cushing must participate in the Nevada Lawyers Assistance Program and comply with treatment recommendations, complete an anger management program, and complete an additional 10 hours of continuing legal education, with at least five of those hours dedicated to substance abuse.
According to findings of fact in the case, Cushing wrote three checks from his law firm’s operating account and deposited them into his personal bank account. When the law firm confronted him about the checks, Cushing lied and said he was reimbursing himself for payments made to an expert witness.
Cushing provided what he said was the expert’s address and phone number. In reality, the address was for a property that Cushing owned and the phone number was for a friend and pro bono client of Cushing’s, according to findings of fact.
When the law firm confronted Cushing about those lies, he said he wrote the checks to cover gambling losses. He then resigned at the law firm’s request.
Cushing later admitted that he did not have a gambling problem and only told his law firm that he did in an effort to save his job.
Cushing also misrepresented the reason for his resignation to a prospective employer, according to the factual findings. In the ethics proceedings, Cushing falsely asserted that he was not misrepresenting why he left his law firm to clients and prospective employers, the findings said.
The baseline sanction for Cushing’s conduct is disbarment, the Nevada Supreme Court said. A “downward deviation” is warranted, the court said, after consideration of two mitigating factors: Cushing has no prior record of discipline and is experiencing “personal and emotional problems.”
Cushing told Bloomberg Law that the Nevada Supreme Court opinion didn’t address his arguments. Cushing said his conflict with Wilson Elser was an employment dispute that didn’t affect his clients and had “nothing to do with the practice of law.”
Although the Nevada Supreme Court did not identify Cushing’s law firm, previous coverage said the firm was Wilson Elser. Cushing sent a demand letter to Wilson Elser in 2018 that said the law firm failed to support him when he needed treatment for alcohol abuse, and the firm fired him when he tried to deposit firm funds into his personal account while in a “drunken stupor.”
Cushing said he turned to alcohol because of the pressure of being the “go-to attorney” for his firm’s problem cases.
Cushing also said Wilson Elser contacted his next employer, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, which led to his firing there.
Wilson Elser had said in a statement at the time that Cushing’s claims were “entirely false and baseless.” The firm said it works with individuals who have drug or alcohol issues and often refers them for treatment.