Steven J. Lever, a former associate at Kirkland & Ellis has been given a suspension of just three year from practice by the New York appeals court in a 3-2 decision. Lever was nailed in a sting operation where he attempted to have sex with a 13-year-old girl. Many object to the suspension of surprising light under the circumstances.
New York Appellate Division, 1st Department, held that Steven J. Lever “brought shame to himself and to this State’s Bar” in his attempt “to prey on minors for purposes of sexual gratification.”
Lever used the firm’s computers to communicated with the girl, who was really a police officer. The light suspension was likely due to the fact that Lever only pleaded guilty in 2005 to a misdemeanor charge in connection with the incident and was sentenced to six years’ probation. Moreover, Lever admitted his guilt and having a sex compulsion — agreeing to enter a sex offender treatment program. He will have to go through a psychiatric evaluation before resuming practice.
The case offers an interesting take on such arrests. The Bar and law firms have been leading other professions in dealing with alcohol and chemical dependency — allowing lawyers to continue to practice when they admit such addictions and seek help. The question is whether this type of criminal conduct is more of a compulsion or a crime. The court treated it as a crime but used the same type of approach taken in compulsion cases — mitigating for admission of guilt and entrance in a recovery program.
Two justices wanted to disbar Lever.
For the decision, click here.
For the full story, click here.