If every industry titan has its Jayson Blair, Theodore Silva was that for D.C. real estate legal powerhouse Holland & Knight.
Here’s the story: Back in 2006, Silva was fired for telling his client he had completed an easement for a construction project at 15th and L Street NW, forging the signatures of the other parties to the deal, and falsely notarizing it. The misbavior cost Holland & Knight, where he’d worked for 12 years, thousands of dollars in billable hours and payment of the other party’s legal fees to undo his mistakes. The D.C. Bar Counsel then sought Silva’s disbarment, and he didn’t help himself out during the hearing, testifying: “I think that I can get over on everybody and that I can manipulate people, and that is what led me to this, is that I can pull this out of the hat and I did it a thousand times.”
Silva also asked for a lighter sentence, claiming that problems with alcohol, cocaine, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder had clouded his judgment. It appears that he was a daily cocaine user for much of his time at the firm, and his superiors found his work to be high-quality—-he made partner a year after joining, in 1995. Silva said he’d entered into a program and kicked the habit in January 2006, but the Bar Counsel found he actually kept using until May, having spent between $20,000 and $30,000 of his severance pay on coke. The court also found Silva’s claims of depression and ADHD to be unconvincing.
The D.C. Court of Appeals, looking at previous cases, yesterday decided to suspend Silva for three years rather than disbar him completely. It’s a sad story, really. So remember, young law firm partners: Don’t do drugs. Or at least, don’t draw up contracts at the same time.