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Adventures in the Law: The Litigator as a Creative Writer

Norm Tabler


  • Massachusetts attorney Kenneth Levine was dissatisfied with the pace and proposed damages in a tort claim case against the United States, so he resorted to creative writing.
  • Levine drafted settlement documents reflecting his desired terms, signed them, and forged the signature of the Assistant United States Attorney.
  • When caught, he claimed the forgery was inadvertent but faced further accusations of fabricating expenses and false invoices.
  • Levine's attempts at voluntary resignation were rejected, leading to his suspension from the Massachusetts bar.
  • Despite the legal fallout, he plans to pursue a career in Hollywood writing screenplays where his writings don't need to be tethered to reality.
Adventures in the Law: The Litigator as a Creative Writer

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If there is a creative writing award for litigators, Massachusetts attorney Kenneth Levine should certainly be in the running for top honors.

Kenneth represented a plaintiff in tort claim litigation against the United States. The case was not proceeding as swiftly as Kenneth would like; the damages proposed by the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) were not generous enough; and Kenneth’s likely share of the award was too meager.

Kenneth deployed his considerable creative writing talents by drafting three settlement documents reflecting his own ideas of an appropriate settlement. He then signed all three documents.

Then he became truly creative. Rather than timidly tendering the documents to the AUSA and awaiting her response, Kenneth simply signed her name to the documents. You read that correctly: Kenneth forged the signature of the AUSA on three documents.

Alas, despite the creativity of Kenneth’s plan, there were two flaws. First, AUSAs generally know what they have and have not agreed to. Second, AUSAs generally know what their own signatures look like.

This AUSA was no different. She alerted the presiding federal judge, who demanded that Kenneth explain. Ever creative, Kenneth testified under oath that signing her name had been “inadvertent.” You read that correctly: Kenneth swore that he had accidentally forged the AUSA’s signature to three documents.

Inevitably, the bar launched an investigation. The investigation also revealed that Kenneth had claimed $16,000 in questionable litigation expenses charged to his client. In response to the challenge, Kenneth, ever creative, fabricated $16,000 of false invoices to support the $16,000 of false expenses.

Kenneth was now in trouble. He had been caught forging the AUSA’s name; claiming $16,000 of nonexistent expenses (wrongfully depriving his client of that amount); fabricating fake invoices; and then lying about all of it under oath to a federal judge and to bar counsel. In all, he had violated seven˗˗seven! ˗˗different ethics rules.

Massachusetts provides an alternative to disbarment. A lawyer may submit an affidavit of voluntary resignation acknowledging that bar counsel could, if required, prove by a preponderance of evidence the allegations against him.

Kenneth submitted an affidavit of voluntary resignation. Sadly for Kenneth, bar counsel and the court found that he had taken a bit too much poetic license. First, the affidavit failed to describe the allegations levelled by bar counsel. Second, it neglected to acknowledge that bar counsel could prove the allegations by a preponderance of evidence. Third, and worst, in the affidavit the ever-creative Kenneth blamed others for his misdeeds.

In response to the objections, Kenneth drafted a supplement. Alas, the supplement still failed to acknowledge that bar counsel could prove that Kenneth’s misdeeds were intentional.

The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with bar counsel’s objections and issued a rare “you-can’t-quit-you’re-suspended” order. With his back to the wall after two failed efforts at voluntarily resigning without acknowledging that his misdeeds were intentional, Kenneth submitted an affidavit complying with the bar rules. He is no longer a member of the Massachusetts bar.

Kenneth has posted his plans for post-law life on his law firm’s now-shuttered website. He is taking his creative talents to Hollywood to write screenplays, where his writing need not be tethered to reality or the finicky constraints of the Massachusetts bar.

The case is In Re Levine, Mass. No. BD-2020-020.