In In re Nicholas J. Ellis, 45 7 Mass. 413 (2010), the Supreme Judicial Court ruled last month that Nicholas Ellis, who had been disbarred in 1997 for insurance fraud, could be reinstated to the practice of law.
Ellis had been disbarred for knowingly submitting fraudulent medical records to insurance companies. His actions were part of a larger scheme by his personal injury law firm, Ellis & Ellis, to defraud insurance companies.
The SJC has found that Nicholas has been rehabilitated.
The court found that when Nicholas joined Ellis & Ellis he was new to the practice of law. The firm was established by his father and "tightly controlled" by his brother. Nicholas' wrongdoing was minor compared to the wrongdoing of the firm and his brother.
The court weighed Nicholas' wrongdoing against his post-disbarment activities, which included being the at-home parent to his children while his wife worked, attempting to become a teacher (he was unable to obtain employment because of his convictions), coaching youth teams, and charitable work through his church. He also expressed remorse about his wrongdoing.
I have mixed feelings about the ruling. It irks me that Nicholas gets brownie points for staying home with his kids. If he were a woman, would the SJC give him rehabilitation points for doing that, or for coaching a kid's team, or for doing volunteer work with a church? And I'm not too impressed with his studying to be a teacher when no school in its right mind would hire him.
It also bothers me that the SJC states that his new practice areas are sufficiently distinct from his old personal injury practice. One of his new practice areas is social security disability law. Forged medical records work just as well with the government as with insurance companies.
On the other hand, I like the idea of rehabilitation. I applaud the notion that each of us can grow beyond whatever stupid, wrong or unethical ideas we were indoctrinated with by our families, even if that growth comes in middle age.
So I give Nicholas the benefit of the doubt. Welcome back to the practice of law. I hope you prove worthy.