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Former Debevoise Lawyer Gets 15 Years in Slammer

Vivia Chen

December 6, 2011

Time for another edition of lawyers in trouble:

© Mikael Damkier - Fotolia.comThe Jerry Sandusky of Big Law? A former Debevoise & Plimpton associate, who worked at the firm from 1997 to 2000, got a stiff sentence—15 years—for luring a teenage Russian boy into a sexual relationship, reports The National Law Journal.

Kenneth Schneider was one of the original lawyers working in Debevoise’s  Moscow office when it opened in 1998, the firm confirms. That summer, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement . . . Schneider told two ballet instructors at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography that he was willing to provide "assistance" to students attending the academy.

The teachers referred him to a 12-year-old boy whose family could no longer afford to pay
his board. Schneider convinced the boy's parents to allow him to live with him in an apartment near the school.

Schneider later founded a nonprofit organization, Apogee Foundation, to support needy artists in the performance arts. In a 2006 interview with a Harvard College publication, "Schneider seemed to describe the relationship with the boy in the case," reports the NLJ. He told the Harvard publication that the foundation had helped "an extremely gifted young student who had been thrown out on the street," and that "we managed to put this kid back in school and to build around him support structures which we've since provided to hundreds of gifted students across Eurasia."


At least he's looking for a consenting adult. An Illinois lawyer looking to hire a legal secretary who wouldn't mind making more than just coffee has been suspended for one year. Reports the ABA Blog:

The Illinois Supreme Court issued the order of suspension for Samir Zia Chowhan, the Legal Profession Blog reports. According to a hearing panel’s report, Chowhan posted an ad in the “adult gigs” section of Craigslist seeking a secretary, and asking applicants to send pictures and measurements.

Here's how Chowhan described the work to an applicant: “In addition to the legal work, you would be required to have sexual interaction with me and my partner, sometimes together, sometimes separate. This part of the job would require sexy dressing and flirtatious interaction . . . You will have to be comfortable doing this with us.”

According to Huffngton Post, Chowhan told the applicant that he decided to add a sexual component to the interview process because past applicants for the job "couldn't handle" the sex part.

Maybe it's not a very professional attitude, but let's give Chowhan credit for being upfront and specific in his job requirement. Besides, don't we all believe in freedom to contract?


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I appreciate Lynn Hecht Schafran's comment. But it strikes me as too restrained, compared to what the ombudsperson of the NYTimes ("Public Editor" Arthur Brisbane) said Nov. 20 in his regular column about overly-restrained language in reporting child sex abuse. He said that in "appropriate" circumstances reporters "should call a rape a rape," referring to nonviolent statutory rapes. The readers' letters in response, which he published Nov. 27, generally approved, and some would go farther to always call any sexual penetration of children "rape."

A comment on the term "sexual relationship" in The Carreerist's introduction to the National Law Journal article about this case, in that article itself, and in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) press release about the case where the term was originally used , http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1112/111201philadelphia.htm,

The term "sexual relationship" connotes
voluntary, consensual sexual activity, which this certainly was not. A
more accurate rendering in the National Law Journal article would have been, "According to ICE, between Aug. 22,
2000 and Nov. 22, 2001 Schneider lured the boy into living with him, then subjected the boy to onging forced sex,
bringing him to Philadelphia for a summer program in 2001, then
returning to Moscow with the victim in August 2001 to continue the
sexual abuse."

The National Judicial Education Program (NJEP) of Legal Momentum, is extremely concerned with the language the media
use to describe sexual violence because it plays such a significant role
in shaping public understanding and opinion. NJEP has extensive
materials on the various aspects of this issue, such as , in this case, misuse of the
language of consensual sex to describe sexual violence.

Lynn Hecht Schafran
National Judicial Education Program
Legal Momentum

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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