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Ghostwriters in the courts

Ghostwriting lawyers, beware, warns another federal judge in an opinion released last month.

Alexandria Senior U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris became suspicious when he compared Wilfredo Sejas’ pro se complaint to a similar challenge to a foreclosure Sejas filed against the same mortgage company in Prince William Circuit Court in 2009. And the plaintiff’s motion for a continuance in the federal case was signed “Wyman P. Rodriguez, pro se.” The telephone number provided on the pleadings did not belong to Sejas, the judge said.

The earlier complaint, drafted by counsel, said Sejas could not speak, read, or write English. Remarkably, the judge said, the new federal complaint was written in English. Either the plaintiff’s language skills improved dramatically in two years, or the pleadings were ghost-written, Cacheris said in Sejas v. MortgageIT Inc.

Cacheris cited two other Eastern District cases to remind lawyers that ghostwriting pleadings for pro se litigants violates court rules.

If you’re working behind the scenes to draft complaints for pro se plaintiffs, you’re violating ethics rules as well, the judge admonished before he dismissed the complaint on res judicata grounds.
By Deborah Elkins

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