Wyoming Supreme Court censures Casper Attorney

By: Sharon Wilkinson
By: Sharon Wilkinson

Cheyenne, WY (KGWN) - From The Wyoming Bar Association

Casper attorney Sandra L. Baker received a public censure from the Wyoming Supreme Court by order dated February 6, 2014. While Baker was engaged in the practice of law in Thermopolis, Wyoming, during the years 2007 and 2008, her husband was receiving Social Security Disability benefits. Baker’s husband performed construction-related odd-jobs, the income from which he was required to report to the Social Security Administration, but he did not.

Baker told co-workers that her husband’s income had to be run through an entity called Baker Contracting of which Ms. Baker was the owner. Consistent with those statements to co-workers, the joint income tax returns filed by Baker and her husband for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 included a Schedule C that reported revenues and expenses for a business called Baker Contracting. Each of the Schedule C’s listed Ms. Baker as the proprietor of Baker Contracting and described the principal business of Baker Contracting as “attorney/contractor construction.” The tax returns were prepared by Baker’s husband and filed electronically. Baker did not participate in their preparation nor did she review them before they were filed.

During 2012, an investigation by the Social Security Administration revealed that Baker’s husband had failed to make the disclosures required by law for recipients of Social Security Disability benefits. Baker’s husband pled guilty to one count of violating 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(4), a felony, and was sentenced to two years’ supervised probation and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $84,605.

The Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct regulate the conduct of members of the Wyoming State Bar. Baker’s complicity in her husband’s withholding of disclosure of his earnings from the Social Security Administration constituted a breach of Rule 8.4(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

Baker stipulated to these facts and consented to the public censure. The Board of Professional Responsibility approved the stipulation, recommending that the Wyoming Supreme Court publicly reprimand Baker. After reviewing the record and recommendation, the Wyoming Supreme Court entered its order publicly censuring Baker and ordering her to pay an administrative fee of $500 and costs of $50 to the Wyoming State Bar.

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