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In the game of worst ways to get disbarred, one former Florida lawyer has scored almost as high as the notorious Prenda Law 'porn-stortion' scheming lawyers. Jose Manual Camacho pleaded guilty to 14 felony charges related to forging the signatures of judges for cases he was working on. He probably would have gotten away with it too, if only he had minded judge Garcia-Wood's vacation schedule.
As a result of his guilty plea, Camacho was sentenced to 364 days in jail, as well as 10 years of probation. While some might think the sentence is too light, particular for 14 felonies, Camacho did admit guilt and he cooperated with authorities. Additionally, it's not likely he'll be able to practice again anytime soon, or ever.
Camacho's forgeries were related to structured settlement agreements, which require judicial approval in Florida. Allegedly, Camacho bypassed the judicial approval part, starting in 2012 when real estate foreclosures clogged the dockets. He forged the signatures of judges and submitted the documents directly to the court clerks.
While one might expect that former attorney Camacho would have been handsomely profiting off the forged signatures, that was anything but the case. Apparently, he was not making any additional money, but was merely trying to avoid the procedural delays of getting judicial approval on the structured settlement deals he frequently worked on. His attorney attempted to explain that when the dockets got clogged and slowed down in 2012, as a high volume practitioner, Camacho was put under pressure.
While Camacho has pleaded guilty to the criminal charges, it is presently unknown whether any of his clients, or adversaries, have individual claims as a result of the forgeries. What makes Camacho's case so surprising, apart from the fact that a lawyer would have the audacity to forge a judge's signature in the first place, is that he did it to eight different judges in well over 100 cases.
The silver lining to this story: Broward County courts changed their procedures to prevent this from happening again. Now, the courts do not allow attorneys to walk signed orders down to the clerk's office. Now another clerk must do so.
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