Lawyers often get a bad rap.  Who hasn’t laughed at an attorney joke? (Unless you are a lawyer.) All kidding aside – when you need a lawyer – you usually need a good one, and fast.  Have you ever thought about where lawyers look for assistance when they have been accused of a crime?  According to the Web site, IowaWatchdog.org, there is a public defender in need of a good attorney to get him off the hook for billing fraud.

An attorney, who contracted with the Iowa State Public Defender, is charged with overbilling the State of Iowa by nearly $178,000 for services he did not perform and excess mileage.  This public defender allegedly claimed he toiled more than 24 hours a day on multiple cases on the same day. (Now that’s multitasking! I wonder what his client success rate was.)

The attorney’s contract was one of five contracts that the Iowa Public Defender terminated following a state auditor investigation.  However, this particular public defender finds himself under fire because his expense reports allegedly claimed he worked at least 20 hours a day for 55 days during the period in which he was audited. (Talk about sleep exhaustion.) He also reported more than $6,100 in mileage for cases that occurred simultaneously. (If true, he would have had to drive around the parking lot for hours while on multiple conference calls to rack up that kind of mileage.)

It is important to remember that this ex-public defender has only been charged with a crime.  Like the clients he used to represent, he deserves his day in court.  Still, when taxpayer dollars are involved, public officials are held to rigorous standards – and with good reason.  Those standards are particularly rigorous for lawyers:  before being able to practice law, this attorney – like all attorneys – was required to take an oath to uphold the law and the state’s legal system.  Let’s hope this case, regardless of its outcome, serves as a reminder to public servants that lying about time and attendance is fraud – and those who are tried and convicted of it, will pay the price.

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