Mea Culpa, Supreme Court Suspends Wrong Lawyer

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 01, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It was a cringe-worthy moment, nearly on the scale of Steve Harvey announcing the wrong winner of the Miss Universe contest or Faye Dunaway declaring the wrong Oscar-winner for Best Picture.

Only it took the U.S. Supreme Court a little longer to fix its mistake after announcing the suspension and intent to disbar the wrong lawyer two weeks ago. Poor Christopher P. Sullivan.

"Due to mistaken identity, the order suspending Christopher Patrick Sullivan of Boston, Massachusetts from the practice of law in this Court, dated May 15, 2017, is vacated," the court said in an unsigned order.

Mistaken Identity

Sullivan, who was trying a case when the court erroneously suspended him, is a partner at Robins Kaplan in Boston. He is president-elect of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

"We knew right away it was a case of mistaken identity," Anthony Froio, managing partner of Robins Kaplan's local office, told the Boston Herald.

Patrick Paul Sullivan, a graduate of the same law school as the other Sullivan, is another story. He was convicted of two felonies in a fatal hit-and-run, and is serving a prison sentence for the crimes.

Following his convictions, New York disbarred him and sent a notice to the U.S. Supreme Court as a routine matter. That led to the mix-up.

'P' is for aPology

New York named Christopher P. Sullivan in its notice, which confused matters because Christopher Patrick Sullivan is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court and in New York. So when the court received the notice, a clerk mistook him for the Sullivan who was actually disbarred.

"It was clearly a mistake, Froio said. "As you know, there are probably a lot of Christopher Patrick Sullivans in the world."

Christopher Paul Sullivan, however, was never admitted to the Supreme Court. He is currently an inmate at a prison in Springfield, Vermont.

The Supreme Court's mistake did not matter to him, but he did benefit from a different court mistake recently. The Vermont Supreme Court overturned his criminal sentence, and he is awaiting re-sentencing.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard