Jury still out on Marshall Sanders’ case

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 2010

“It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

Rule 8.4(b) Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct.

Attorneys are known for obscure and confusing verbiage. Attorneys drafted the rule, above, for themselves. It’s as clear as a bell.

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Much-respected Vicksburg attorney Marshall Sanders has admitted criminal acts, specifically failing to pay amounts due to the Internal Revenue Service for the years 2000 through 2003. In documents from the 2008, prosecutors alleged Sanders had filed no federal tax returns since 1994.

For that, he’s in prison with, reportedly, two months left to serve on an 18-month term. He also agreed to pay the IRS more than $1 million.


Who doesn’t know paying taxes comes with American citizenship?


There were accusations of masking income.


Clients, friends and many others had faith in Sanders — a guy who went from Vicksburg to Harvard in an era when all the odds were against him.

In filings, Sanders concedes that he knows his criminal acts were (1) wrong and (2) deserve sanction. That speaks well of Sanders. Too many high-profile people continue to deny the error of their ways.

So, given the clear rule, the clear violation and the clear admission of liability, what remains is determination of whether Sanders will keep his license to practice. That’s the hard part. The legal profession is sensitive to having “criminals” in its ranks. As an individual, Sanders sees serving clients as making amends. A suspension, which has been recommended, is a compromise and looms likely as the final determination.

For the rest of us, the lesson is that even when everything is clear, it doesn’t mean decisions are easy. Marshall Sanders has done wrong and paid a heavy price. Enough? The jury’s still out on that.