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Man Illegally Practices Law in New York for 15 Years
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Confessed to practicing law illegally

Summary: A lawyer admits to illegally practicing law in New York for 15 years.

Dennis M. McGrath has represented clients in New York for 15 years, being paid $165,000 to represent indigents for the Erie County Bar Association Aid to Indigent Prisoner’s Society. But, in what is being called an “outrage,” McGrath, 57, was not licensed in New York to practice law, though he was licensed in Ohio and had been practicing law for 30 years. This is why he has been charged with, and admitted to, unauthorized practice of law and second-degree larceny.

  
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But is it so bad, for all that? Listen in to District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, who calls it outrageous that McGrath defrauded his clients and further, “was taking public funds to represent people too poor to hire an attorney,” as the Buffalo News reported. “And he did it for years.”

“In other words, law-abiding taxpayers already called upon to finance legal representation for criminal defendants who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer themselves, were defrauded of nearly $165,000 while McGrath was under the keen supervision of the assigned-counsel program.”

Perhaps all that is overblown. The guy was licensed to practice law after all. Perhaps McGrath’s attorney, Mark R. Uba, makes more sense when he points out that McGrath had a law degree from the University of Toledo, and further, “He is a seasoned attorney with 30 years of experience. He has done a lot of good for a lot of people during his career.”

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Sure, he lied. That is, when asked if he was licensed to practice in New York, he said he was in the process of admission to the New York Bar.

“Apparently nobody in the assigned-counsel program checked his credentials,” steamed Sedita. “That’s how he got away with it.”



This assumes somehow that McGrath was a total screw up and didn’t do what he was hired to do, rather than fudging some red tape. Certainly lying each year on the assigned-counsel program’s application form, which asked if he was authorized to practice law in New York, is not a good sign, but does it warrant the punishment Sedita says he may receive?

McGrath has agreed to pay back the $164,485, and further is awaiting a sentencing on March 27 under the rule of Judge Kenneth F Case that could fit him out with 15 years in prison, if he is unfortunate, though his attorney and he himself, naturally, are hoping for something more lenient.

Does McGrath deserve a 15 year prison sentence?

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