Legal Ethics

Rebuke for Lawyer Who Forged Judge's Signature to Avoid 2nd Trip

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An Iowa lawyer who improvised the signature of a judge who forgot to sign a document has received a public reprimand from the Iowa Supreme Court.

Lawyer Mark Newman of Forest City had to drive to another town to get a judge’s signature on two documents, Radio Iowa reports in its story on the case. Although the judge had approved both documents, when Newman returned to his office, he learned the judge had signed only one of them.

The judge had neglected to sign the second document, a wrongful death settlement, according to the Iowa Supreme Court opinion (PDF) approving the reprimand. Newman forged the judge’s signature and filed the order.

When the judge confronted Newman, he admitted he had signed the judge’s name. Both the judge and Newman himself reported the action to the attorney disciplinary board.

The Iowa Supreme Court said Newman appears to be a person of good moral character who has never been subjected to discipline. But the court said a public, rather than a private, reprimand should be issued because of the nature of the ethics violation.

“We believe a public reprimand is necessary to signal Iowa lawyers and the citizens of Iowa that forging a judge’s signature is a serious ethical violation under any circumstances,” the court said.

The Legal Profession Blog also reported the story.

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