Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 | 12:55 p.m.
CARSON CITY – A Las Vegas attorney who admitted stealing $398,345 from his clients to support his gambling habit has been suspended for five years by the Nevada Supreme Court.
The court rejected the recommendation of the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board of the state Bar that Douglas C. Crawford be disbarred. Crawford argued that was excessive and he warranted only a five-year suspension.
“The purpose of attorney discipline is to protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession, not to punish the attorney,” said the court. It said that mitigating circumstances outweighed the aggravating circumstances in the case.
Crawford, in arguing for the five-year suspension, said the court should consider his good character and reputation, restitution, remorse and the mental disabilities of depression and gambling addiction.
The discipline committee said Crawford had prior discipline cases; he had multiple offenses and his selfish motive for his misconduct.
Crawford made a conditional guilty plea to 65 violations, mostly involving misappropriation of client money.
In handing out the lesser punishment, the Supreme Court set a number of conditions that must be met before Crawford can be admitted back to practice law.
He must pass the bar examination again. He must continue his gambling recovery efforts, including weekly meetings of gamblers anonymous and meeting with his psychiatrist.
During his suspension, he is not to practice law or handle any client funds or trust accounts. As a possible reinstatement to again practice law Crawford must willingly accept to work with a mentor and continue to refrain from handling any client funds.
He must make restitution to the clients who lost money. And he must pay back the money the so-called Client Security Fund of the state Bar paid to the victims.
Cy Ryan may be reached at (775) 687 5032 or [email protected].