Ethics

suspended words

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Gordon Caplan, the former co-chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, has been suspended from law practice for two years for participating in the college admissions scandal.

The Appellate Division’s First Judicial Department of the New York Supreme Court said the suspension is retroactive to an interim suspension that began in November 2019, Law.com reports. The Feb. 18 opinion is here.

Caplan, 54, pleaded guilty in May 2019 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. He was accused of paying $75,000 to a college admissions consultant to have an exam proctor correct some of his daughter’s answers on the ACT. He was sentenced in October 2019 to a month in prison.

Caplan testified in the disciplinary hearing, saying he disgraced his family and law firm.

“This was hubris. It was arrogant,” he said. “It was about me, not about my child. That took a lot of self-realization. It was deep insecurity, I think. I frankly think a lot of people in my former profession have this notion of having to prove yourself all the time. It overwhelmed me and it destroyed my life. I destroyed my life.”

Caplan had been introduced in June 2018 to college counselor Rick Singer, who was at the center of the college admissions scandal. Caplan’s daughter was a junior in high school and a nationally ranked junior tennis player at the time, the opinion said.

Singer had counseled Caplan to get his daughter tested for a learning difference that would allow her more time to take the ACT. After that, the daughter would take the ACT at a location where Singer could pay the proctor to correct the daughter’s answers after she turned in the test.

Caplan followed Singer’s recommendations, but the ACT declined to score the test on the grounds that permission for untimed testing should not have been granted. At that point, Caplan tried to pressure the ACT to accept the fraudulent score.

Caplan’s conversations with Singer had been recorded.

Caplan has said his daughter was unaware of the scheme. He cooperated in the disciplinary case and has no other disciplinary history.

Caplan submitted about 70 letters of support that cited his extensive participation in pro bono activities, his help to others in need, and his hours of personal service to Fordham Law School and Cornell University.

A former co-chairman of Willkie testified at the hearing that there was “universal respect and affection” for Caplan. Another witness testified about Caplan’s involvement with a group that helped struggling schools. In prison, he conducted seminars for inmates on how to start a business after leaving prison.

After his release, Caplan’s community service was with a group that provides social and religious services to prisoners and their families.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Willkie Farr co-chair placed on leave after he’s charged in college cheating case”

ABAJournal.com: “Former Willkie co-chair plans to plead guilty in college cheating scandal”