Former BigLaw lawyer who wrongly thought he could 'power through' depression gets suspension

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A former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius lawyer has been suspended from law practice for failing to inform a tax client about an adverse decision, failing to file a timely appeal, failing to inform the client of a $183,620 tax lien, and signing a false affidavit about his conduct.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended lawyer Daniel Michael Dixon for a year and a day in a March 4 opinion. Dixon had failed to respond to the ethics allegations, which had the effect of deeming them admitted.

But he did testify on his own behalf after a hearing committee found ethics violations, according to a December 2021 report by the state supreme court’s disciplinary board.

Dixon said he couldn’t get over the anxiety of potentially losing his job, so he tried to fix his mistake and then made things worse by being dishonest.

He told the committee that he had suffered from depression and anxiety after a breakup with his wife in 2013. He said he was “in no way prepared” to handle the position at Morgan Lewis when he accepted the job in 2016.

Dixon “testified that he ‘oversold’ his ability to be a practice group leader in the state and local tax area and was not prepared to come into the firm and build a team,” according to the disciplinary board report.

In hindsight, Dixon thought that he should have taken more time off to address his mental health issues before accepting the position at Morgan Lewis.

“At the time,” the report said, Dixon “thought that his mental health issues were a weakness he could ‘power through.’ He recognizes now that his issues were not a problem he could handle on his own.”

Dixon had expressed remorse for his conduct and “described his actions as dishonest, inappropriate and a mistake,” according to the disciplinary board report. He has practiced law since 2006 and has no prior record of discipline.

According to the report, Dixon failed to disclose the June 2017 adverse ruling to the client and failed to meet a September 2017 deadline for appeal. For a period after the adverse decision, Dixon “on multiple occasions failed to reply to his client’s inquiries about the status of its case.” When he did reply in “purported updates,” he made misrepresentations.

Dixon falsely said he was “pulling together some materials” to “fast-track resolution of the appeal,” that the secretary of the body that hears appeals conceded the lien was in error and was “going to touch base with the appropriate folks,” that a successful resolution would be forthcoming, and that the appellate body “threw us a curveball” when it denied relief.

Dixon filed two false affidavits—one that he signed and one that he prepared for his assistant—to support his false claim that he didn’t receive the decision when it was issued, and he should be allowed to appeal.

Dixon was fired in June 2018 after Morgan Lewis investigated his conduct. The client, CSI International, settled the sales and use tax case for $189,726. Morgan Lewis paid the settlement for CSI International, wrote off $19,291 in attorney fees, and spent $54,150 in unbillable time investigating the matter.

Dixon was working at a small law firm at the time of the disciplinary board report. He thinks that the atmosphere better suits his needs. He was actively involved in therapy and had reconciled with his wife.

Dixon gave this comment to the ABA Journal in an email: “As you can imagine, I am disappointed by the court’s order. I continue to take my mental health and the mental health of our legal community seriously and look forward to putting this issue and isolated incident behind me.”

Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog.

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