A frequent commentator on local television in Las Vegas, Douglas Crawford, 53, admits to stealing roughly $400,000 from his client, charging for work never performed, and violating court orders. Despite 65 violations of the Rule of Professional Conduct, the Nevada Supreme Court declared him to be addicted to both gambling and drug and rejected calls for disbarment. Instead, it suspended him for five years.
The decision rejects a unanimous recommendation of the State Bar of Nevada to disbar Crawford. The panel wrote a scathing report:
“If this were to happen even one more time to an innocent client whose life savings were lost due to an act of Mr. Crawford, it would be a black stain upon the State Bar and the attorneys who abide, on a daily basis, to the professional ethics of that organization which could never be erased, The risk is too great and, therefore, after much soul searching and discussion, it is the final decision of this panel that Mr. Crawford be disbarred as an attorney and refused the opportunity to ever practice law in this jurisdiction again.”
The court, however, showed considerable mercy and relief upon the “mental disabilities of depression and gambling addiction” as well as character witnesses and his expressed remorse. He would have to pass the bar exam again to resume practice.
This is in direct contradiction of the fact found by by the panel:
“He has testified he is a changed man and the Panel certainly hopes he is. However, his direct testimony was that it was the pressures of the practice of law which caused him to succumb, the first time, into these terrible and despicable depths. The Panel finds nothing upon which they can rest a guarantee that if Mr. Crawford were allowed to practice law again the same practice would not cause him to suffer the same degree of stress and react in the same manner to that stress.”
It is the reliance on the gambling addiction which is interesting. Courts have previously recognized gambling as an addiction, but it remains rare to see it used as the basis for leniency in a bar proceeding of this kind. Of course, continuing to practice in Las Vegas as a recovering gambling addict will be a bit more difficult than other cities.