When I last blogged about Florida paralegal Kristen Collins Lausberg and her former employer, disbarred attorney Jessica Miller, they had been charged with multiple felonies involving the theft of client funds. They allegedly used the funds to live really large, shopping at Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s, and treating their families to resort vacations.
The wild spending sprees did not sit well with Circuit Judge Michael Andrews, who sentenced Miller to more than four years of prison after she entered a guilty plea earlier this year.
Lausberg accepted a plea bargain in exchange for her cooperation in the case, a deal that she believed would spare her prison time – and that Andrews thought was too lenient. But after Andrews gave Miller prison time, Lausberg asked the court to withdraw her plea. The prosecuting attorneys did not contest the request, and actually appear to be delighted to have the opportunity try the case.
Miller and Lausberg’s employment relationship had an unusual beginning. Instead of a lawyer looking for a paralegal, a paralegal was looking for a lawyer. According to Tampabay.com, Miller answered Lausberg’s ad posted on a law school bulletin board, seeking an attorney for the firm where she was working. According to Miller, the paralegal was the “mastermind” and office task master, controlling the firm’s accounts, paying the attorney a “meager salary, and inviting the attorney along on the “free-spending outings.”
This should be an interesting trial. Tampabay.com reports that Lausberg has a prior conviction for forging a circuit judge’s signature. This is yet another real life news story that supports the wisdom of checking your office mates’ references and criminal records before you become joint signatories on a law firm trust account.