TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What's Worse for a Law Grad: Cheating on Taxes or Writing Term Paper for $300?

Above the Law, Hard-Hitting Term Paper Exposé Costs Appellate Law Clerk His Job:

In November, we told you about Damian Bonazzoli, who was — at that time — a senior staff attorney for the Massachusetts Appeals Court. He decided to make some money on the side by responding to a Craigslist ad seeking someone to write a term paper. The Boston College law grad sent along his résumé and said he was willing to write a paper on physician-assisted suicide for $300.

The Craigslist poster though was not a lazy Harvard freshman. It was an investigative journalist for Commonwealth magazine, who wanted to expose the “shadowy underworld” of college papers for purchase. When the journalist confronted him, Bonazzoli was surely embarrassed but said:

“I am aware of no state or federal statute that prohibits such a practice. This is not the equivalent of, say, lying on a federal employment or tax form,” he said. “Could your school take disciplinary action? Of course. But that’s quite different from a criminal prosecution.”

Bonazzoli should have done some research before making that statement, as there is such a statute, passed in 1972. ...  Joan Kenney, a spokeswoman for the Trial Court, issued a statement saying that “as of December 29, 2009, Mr. Bonazzoli no longer works at the court.” ...

Bonazzoli lost his $94,000 per year job over a $300 term paper. Ouch.

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This law and the publicity of this case is a good example of something that has gone wrong with America. It is clear that Americans have changed from wanting to see people succeed to wanting to see people fail. I can remember a time when it was thought that someone could still fit in and make a positive contribution to society even if they had a minor mishap here and there. I even remember a time when someone would not be stripped of their ability to earn a living in these situations. Perhaps the only thing that Mr. Bonazzoli could have done that would be worse would be to have an affair. Then there would be no doubt that he is not qualified to be an attorney or to be an underpaid public servant and he should be banished to some faraway place.

Posted by: NotSure | Jan 31, 2010 1:19:47 PM

Very good point, NotSure. This may have been made worse by the growth of envy in our nation. The punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime.

It's not like he cheated on his taxes, unless he failed to claim the $300, in which case they would stone him or appoint him to a Treasury position.

Posted by: Woody | Feb 1, 2010 9:26:54 AM