A veteran solicitor who forged three signatures to meet a court deadline has been suspended from practising.
Nicholas Usiskin, a sole practitioner based in Oxford, admitted signing witness statements on behalf of his client and two witnesses in a debt recovery case.
The 70-year-old, admitted in 1981, signed the documents in order to meet a deadline for exchange of witness statements: he claimed that his client was aware of what he was doing, but he accepted that the signatures should have come from the witnesses themselves.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard Oxford County Court was misled by Usiskin's misconduct and he was penalised for costs, despite ultimately winning the case.
Usiskin had signed the witness statements and served the final documents with 42 minutes remaining before the deadline for submission in March 2015.
At trial in May 2015, the client was asked by counsel whether his signature appeared on his statement, and it emerged Usiskin had signed for all three witness statements.
Following the completion of proceedings, Usiskin told the Solicitors Regulation Authority that he could not risk late service with the possible consequence of the statements not being admissible. His client had been chased to provide witness statements two days before the deadline, and he had been asked several times to supply the documents.
Usiskin said the judge, although critical of the signature issue, did not complain that the court was misled or deceived. The solicitor now accepted he should have applied for an extension of time in which to submit the statements, or served them in draft form.
The tribunal heard medical evidence asserting that Usiskin had experienced a depressive episode ‘of at least moderate severity’ in March 2015, which offered an explanation for his behaviour. His actions were the result of ‘rushed and impaired problem solving’ due to the combination of his depressive state and his adverse feelings towards his client and the case.
In an outcome agreed with the SRA, it was suggested he be suspended for up to nine months and ordered to pay £2,626 costs.
The tribunal agreed to a nine-month suspension and, on his return, restrictions preventing him from practising as a sole practitioner or being owner of an authorised body.