Legal Ethics

Judge Who Tried to Hide Assets for Disbarred Husband Gets 3-Yr Suspension

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has suspended a judge for three years, a term 12 times longer than a disciplinary panel had recommended.

The unpaid suspension of Superior Court Judge Patricia Coffey comes after the court concluded she was complicit in a fraudulent property transfer involving her lawyer-husband, the Concord Monitor reports.

The high court also found that Coffey interfered with an investigation into the matter. Gov. John Lynch has called on Coffey to resign and lawmakers are considering legislation that would oust her for tarnishing the integrity of the judiciary.

“Simply put, when one whose job is to enforce the law instead interferes with and disregards the law to her own benefit, the public rightfully questions whether the judicial system itself is worthy of respect,” the court opined in a split decision (PDF).

Coffey’s actions came under investigation in 2006 after she created a trust in 2003 in her name. She was reportedly trying to hide her husband’s assets from creditors. Her husband, John Coffey, was being investigated at the time for overbilling an elderly client. John Coffey was later disbarred, and when the state professional conducts committee sought reimbursement for its misconduct investigation, it discovered all of John Coffey’s assets were in his wife’s name.

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