Gordon Caplan, a prominent corporate lawyer and former co-chairman of New York law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, will not lose his law license permanently for his role in the “Varsity Blues” college-admissions scandal. Alongside other notable defendants, such as actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, Caplan had paid a consultant $75,000 to change his daughter’s ACT college admissions score. Mr. Caplan was convicted of felony conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud and was sentenced to a month in prison, 250 hours of community service, and a $50,000 fine.
In New York, section 486 of the judiciary law makes debarment automatic for conviction of a state felony or a crime “essentially similar” to a state felony, but the law does allow Caplan to argue that his actions did not meet that standard. On February 18th, the Appellate Division, First Department agreed with an earlier disciplinary decision that a two-year suspension was enough, retroactive to his November 2019 interim suspension. The court focused on Caplan’s remorse for his actions, his history of charitable work, his contribution in prison, and the notion that he is unlikely to commit a bribery or cheating crime again as mitigating factors. Despite his felony conviction, Caplan can practice law again in November 2021.