Lawyer steals funds from firm to support his addictions.
Las Vegas attorney Kym Cushing, former partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, has been suspended after an ethics panel discovered he wrote himself checks from the firm’s operating account, filtering them into his own to feed his alcohol and gambling addictions. Cushing was ordered to attend the Nevada Lawyers Assistance Program and an anger management workshop as well as take ten hours of continuing legal education, five of which have to pertain to substance abuse. He had worked at the firm for thirteen years, from 2005 to 2018.
Cushing apparently wrote three checks from his law firm’s operating account, depositing them into his account, according to court records. When the law firm confronted him, the attorney originally tried to justify what he did by saying he was reimbursing himself for payments made to an expert witness. Cushing provided the supposed contact information for the expert, but in reality, an address provided turned out to be a property that Cushing owned, and the phone number was a friend’s cell. Cushing eventually admitted he wrote the checks to cover gambling losses.
When Cushing he was forced to resign, he lied about why he left the job to a new potential employer. He also misrepresented himself to his previous clients.
“The baseline sanction for Cushing’s conduct is disbarment,” the Nevada Supreme Court said, adding, “A downward deviation is warranted, after consideration of two mitigating factors: Cushing has no prior record of discipline and is experiencing personal and emotional problems.”
Cushing replied, his “conflict with Wilson Elser was an employment dispute that didn’t affect his clients and had nothing to do with the practice of law.” In 2018, Cushing sent a letter to Wilson Elser indicating the firm “failed to support him when he needed treatment for alcohol abuse and forced him to leave when he tried to deposit firm funds into his personal account while in a drunken stupor.” He said they had not been used for gambling.
In the letter, Cushing insisted he “turned to alcohol because of the pressure of being the go-to attorney for his firm’s problem cases” and, he added, “Wilson Elser contacted his next employer, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith” which led to a subsequent termination. Elser submitted a statement calling Cushing’s claims “entirely false and baseless.” The firm said it “works with individuals who have drug or alcohol issues and often refers them for treatment.”
The Supreme Court of Nevada declined to disbar Kym S. Cushing, because of his “personal and emotional problems.” In the March 2018 order, the court noted that “the state bar counsel petition raised serious concerns about Cushing’s honesty, alcohol use, and gambling…Cushing’s conduct violated ethics rules prohibiting dishonesty and knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal.” It continued in the issued opinion, “Substantial evidence supports the disciplinary panel’s findings that Cushing’s mental state was intentional and that his misconduct harmed the public and the legal profession and potentially harmed his pro bono client.”
Cushing said he was disappointed by the court’s decision. He can apply for reinstatement after he has successfully completed the required steps as laid out by the court.