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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Past Catches Up With Attorney

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - The Missouri Supreme Court has suspended an attorney's license for failing to reveal that he had served prison time in Nevada and had been arrested on felony charges in California.

Thomas M. Fischer took the Missouri Bar exam in 2000 and 4 months later was hired by Armstrong Teasdale, a prominent St. Louis law firm, as a patent attorney.

But before taking the Bar, Fischer, 47, failed to reveal his past, which includes charges that he broke into a stranger's house in December 1979 in Nevada, held a woman at gunpoint and stole her car after she escaped.

After being caught in California, he was extradited to Nevada and charged with auto theft, use of a deadly weapon, robbery and burglary. While free on bond in June 1980, Fischer allegedly burglarized several cars and homes in California and stole steaks from an employer. He was never prosecuted for those charges but spent 3 years in prison in Nevada, before being released in December 1983.

Fischer's attorney Michael Downey wrote in a leniency petition that Fischer worked as a fry cook and a restaurant manager after his release from prison, earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and his law degree from Washington University.

Fischer had said his own FBI background check came back without any reference to his prior crimes and that a court clerk in Nevada told him he had been pardoned. Fischer answered "no" on his law license application to the question: "Have you ever, either as an adult or juvenile, been cited, arrested, charged or convicted for any violation of any law?" and a subsequent investigation by the Missouri Board of Law Examiners showed a clean record when it checked with the FBI.

In 2005, Fischer decided to move to North Carolina and applied for a law license there. When North Carolina's FBI check turned up Fischer's record in Nevada and California, North Carolina notified Missouri. In a unanimous decision, the Missouri Supreme Court found Fischer guilty of professional misconduct. He cannot reapply for 6 months.

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