Tuesday, February 21, 2012


There was a bit of a flap recently, in a criminal case* pending in US District Court in White Plains, New York, when it was revealed that the attorney for Defendant Nathan Rothschild, a New Jersey resident named Michael W Burnbaum, was currently the subject of a bar disciplinary proceeding in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, that state's highest court, seeking to revoke his law license there. The  Massachusetts Bar Association had recently filed a Notice of Conviction of Serious Crime, and Petition for Reciprocal Discipline.

Attorney Burnbaum was arrested in 1995**, after he asked a jailed inmate to draw him a map of the location of a shipment of cocaine he had stored before his arrest. The lawyer, a former Federal prosecutor, was reportedly acting on orders of the inmate's drug cartel kingpin, his client. He was arrested, and charged with Conspiracy, with Intent to Distribute, Cocaine. At his sentencing in Florida in 1999, he received 105 months in Federal Prison, plus four years of Supervised Release, which is a form of post-incarceration parole. He resigned from the Florida Bar, and he has not been readmitted.

For some reason, the Massachusetts Bar never learnt of his felony conviction from the Florida court, and Mr. Burnbaum apparently never disclosed it to the organisation. Generally, when a practising lawyer is sentenced in Federal Court, the trial judge inquires of the lawyer whether he is admitted in any other jurisdictions, other than the state his office is located in. It appears that Mr, Burnbaum  may have failed to inform the judge that he held a license in Massachusetts, a clear lapse of ethics on his part. Of course, since he was going off to prison for more than seven years, it may not have seemed important to him at the time; it is now.

After his release in 2006, Burnbaum moved to New Jersey. In a number of social networking sites, he identifies himself as a lawyer. He successfully had his Supervised Release terminated early, and in 2011, he undertook to defend Nathan Rothschild, in a corruption case in US District Court in New York State.  He actually obtained a Certificate of Good Standing from the State of Massachusetts, in order to be admitted pro hac vice***  in New York, and he stated in his application that he had no pending disciplinary actions against him in any court. This statement may be true, but, did he not have a duty of candor to the court ?  Was he being deceptive ?

When his past caught up to him, it was properly noted that he was, at that moment, still a member of the Massachusetts Bar in Good Standing, that his client (who was sentenced to a year and a day) stated that he was aware of it, and he wanted Mr. Burnbaum to continue as his defence counsel.

I see that he has filed, in the court in Massachusetts, an objection to the introduction of a copy of the Florida disciplinary action against him there. These procedural tactics will only serve to gain a short delay in the inevitable, as Mr. Burnbaum certainly knows. He will ultimately lose his license in Massachusetts.

 There will be other consequences; any chance that he may have had to gain admission, or readmission, to the bar of any state at a later date has most likely been greatly diminished by his actions in the New York case, as well as his attempts to evade the consequences of his criminal conviction. Honesty is, and will remain, the only policy, particularly for lawyers, who are held to a higher standard of care than non-lawyers.
*United States vs. Rothschild,  Case No.: 11-cr-00345-KMK (SD NY).
** United States vs. Burnbaum, Case No.: 95000481-AJ (SD FL).
*** "For this event,"  meaning that a lawyer is admitted to practice before the court for the limited purpose of that proceeding only.


  1. The Boston Bar Connection had recently submitted a Notice of Indictment of Serious Criminal offense, and Case for Mutual Self-discipline.

    one call that's all

  2. Michael Burnbaum's license to practice law was suspended in Massachusetts was suspended for three years, by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.


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