Boulder immigration attorney Emily Cohen — who was convicted in 2014 of scamming immigrant families out of thousands
of dollars — has been disbarred by the Colorado Supreme Court in a decision letter that called her case an egregious violation of trust.
"(Cohen's) repeated theft from her immigration clients ranks among the gravest possible examples of attorney misconduct," the decision read. "She seriously damaged her clients and shook the public's confidence in the legal profession. Notwithstanding her emotional problems and her lengthy prison sentence, her misconduct demands disbarment."
Cohen was convicted on 13 of 21 theft counts of theft in 2014 after prosecutors said she collected more than $41,000 in fees from seven immigrant families, then dropped out of contact without producing the visas and work permits she'd promised her clients.
She was sentenced to six years in prison and is currently serving her sentence at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.
Boulder District Judge Andrew Hartman also ordered Cohen serve 10 years of probation after her prison sentence and said she wouldn't be allowed to practice law while on probation.
Though it would be years before she could practice law again, the Colorado Supreme Court disbarred her in a decision released Monday, saying it was their responsibility to enforce the values of the legal profession.
"We also recognize that our primary task is to protect the public, not punish (Cohen), and we understand that (Cohen) will be in no position to endanger future clients for many years if her sentence remains intact," the decision read. "We believe, however, that the public is protected not only by forbidding untrustworthy lawyers to practice law but also by consistently upholding and communicating the standards to which lawyers will be held."
The panel in Cohen's hearing said her motives for the theft, repeated offenses, lack of remorse and the vulnerability of her victims were all aggravating factors in her case.
Cohen argued that her personal and emotional problems as well as her stiff criminal sentence were mitigating factors, but the panel said those factors carried "limited weight."
The disbarment comes almost two years after Cohen's initial arrest, which Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett said highlights the complexity involved in prosecuting cases of lawyer misconduct.
"This was an important case for the office because of the number of victims and the extent of the fraud," Garnett said.
According to the Office of Attorney Regulation, 41 attorneys have been disbarred in Colorado between 2013 and 2015.
"In the People's estimation, this is as clear a case for disbarment as any hearing board is likely to see," the decision read.