Just days before a local television news report suggested he might be “Michigan’s Worst Lawyer,” Political Science lecturer Lawrence Greene withdrew from teaching his courses for the remainder of the semester.
The Monday WXYZ news segment reported that Greene cashed his deceased parents’ pension checks and featured interviews with nine former clients of Greene’s who alleged that he collected thousands of dollars from them and failed to do the work for which he was paid.
Students in Greene’s “Constitutional Politics, Courts, Politics and Society” course received an e-mail Thursday informing them that Greene would no longer be teaching the course.
Joann Nemeth, academic program assistant in the Political Science department sent the e-mail, which read, “It is with much regret that I inform you that for circumstances beyond his control, Larry Greene will no longer be teaching PS 389.003 Fall ’08 term.”
The courses have continued as scheduled with a rotation of three professors taking over for Greene, who has taught at the University for six years.
“Please be assured that the course will still be taught,” the e-mail said, “and the department will continue to strive to provide you with the highest level of teaching service and classroom experience.”
Greene, who practiced law in Michigan and several other states for almost 40 years prior to his career as a lecturer, officially left his classes Friday, a few days before the Detroit Action news video report aired.
“The evidence shows that Larry made a habit of taking thousands of dollars from clients and never did the work he was paid to do,” the report said.
One of the former clients featured in the report said Greene told her he lost his license to practice law because he had been cashing his parents’ monthly retirement checks for five years after they had already been deceased.
Bill Proctor, the WXYZ anchor who reported the story, said Greene was asked to return $25,874.73 to Ford Motor Company, where his father was an employee, but that there was no record that he ever did.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham declined to comment on the reasoning behind his withdrawal from classes this term, calling it a personnel matter.
When reached by phone last night, Greene also declined comment on why he withdrew from the classes. He said he is in the hospital and is “severely injured.”
Greene said reporters are constantly investigating him. “I did nothing wrong,” he said. “I am proud of my affiliation with the University of Michigan.”
Several of Greene’s former and current students expressed disappointment in the University’s judgment to hire Greene, given his legal history. According to state Attorney Discipline Board records, Greene has been disbarred twice — once in 1998 and another time in 2003.
“I trusted his knowledge because he’s a professor here at the University of Michigan. Obviously I thought we could have a higher caliber of faculty,” said LSA junior James Dean, who is currently enrolled in Greene’s class.
Dean said if he had known about Greene’s history of legal troubles, he would not have enrolled in one of his classes.
“There are obviously moral issues involved,” he said.
LSA senior Rob Abb, who took a judicial internship and several other classes with Greene, said he had heard rumors of Greene’s legal troubles, but did not give much weight to them because he was a University lecturer.
Abb, who said he nearly asked Greene for a letter of recommendation to aid in his law school application process, said he feels relieved that he didn’t follow through with the request.
Dean said several students in Greene’s class have expressed dissatisfaction because the switch to substitute professors also meant a switch to new course materials.
“We bought these books for class, and now we’re not going to use them anymore, and that’s $200 gone,” Dean said.
Some students also said the arrangement with three fill-in professors interrupted the continuity of the course.
LSA junior Rachel Goldstein, who is also enrolled in Greene’s course, said Greene’s recent absences and repeated cancellations of class before his withdrawal hurt her learning experience.
“I don’t feel like students were keeping up with the course load,” she said. “We were not being held accountable.”