Lawyer Disbarred Over Video Game 'Addiction'

Dennis Faas's picture

A Pennsylvania lawyer has been suspended after blaming a video game addiction for sloppy work. His actions, or lack of them, led to seventeen separate complaints from clients.

Matthew Eshelman of Carlisle, Pennsylvania was disciplined by the state's Supreme Court Disciplinary Board, which regulates lawyers. It voted to suspend his license for three years; this was reduced from an initial recommendation for a five-year ban because board members felt Eshelman had originally been a skilled lawyer and should be able to return to this level of performance once he dealt with personal problems.

Gaming Dominates Lawyer's Life

The board heard that Eshelman originally worked for a law firm but that a combination of stresses at work and problems in his home life led to him "retreating into a world of computer and video games" and that "he lost focus on his legal work and diverted his attention to electronic recreation." (Source:

Eventually, this led to him being fired and opening his own law practice in 2007. It was from this period that the 17 complaints dated, all of which were upheld by the board. In most of the cases the issue was simply neglect: Eshelman didn't keep clients updated, took too long to respond to requests for information, and didn't file papers by deadlines.

Client Forced to Seek Psychiatric Treatment

Some cases were more serious, with the neglect involving the handling of client fees; for example, not depositing them into a trust account.

In a few cases his sloppiness caused direct damage to clients, including holding up a divorce becoming legal for several months. One case was reportedly so stressful due to Eshelman's conduct that a client was forced to seek psychiatric treatment to deal with the stress.

In the most serious incident, Eshelman deliberately and knowingly put false information in a legal document to try to cover for his mistakes. (Source:

According to the court ruling, Eshelman "testified that when attempting to conduct his own law practice he sought refuge from his problems by playing video and computer games with an even greater intensity. He described himself as 'addicted' to the games."

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