Every Appellate Lawyer’s Worst Nightmare

No one wants to be on the receiving end of an opinion that says:

“The events recounted in this opinion show that [lawyer] is a menace to his clients and a scofflaw with respect to appellate procedure. The district court may wish to consider whether he should remain a member of its bar. Would-be clients should consider how [lawyer] has treated Lee, Washington, and Moore. [Lawyer] has not asked for a hearing on the disciplinary order to show cause, and we now conclude that he has comported himself unprofessionally. We reprimand [lawyer] for this unprofessional behavior and fine him $5,000.00, payable to the Clerk within 14 days. [Lawyer] must send Lee, Washington and Moore copies of this opinion so that they may consider whether to file malpractice suits against him.”

What did the lawyers do?  They did not file (1) a timely appeal, (2) a timely brief, or (3) filed a timely docketing statement.  But that is not all.  The lawyers refused to call back the court clerk.  They failed to respond to multiple show cause orders.  This is all just at the appellate level.

I like it. Judges should not be tolerant of this type of nonsense for the same reason that we have bar counsel in the first place: we need to clear up our own act and judges are ultimately lawyers too.  They have every interest in keeping our profession clean.  As a profession, the optics require us to be tough on our own because what the general public sees is as doing the kinds of things these lawyers did here.  While it is more important on a practical level that doctors manage themselves, it is even more important for lawyers because the public does not give us the benefit of the doubt.

This opinion was written by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, for a panel that also included Judge Posner.

I wonder if a legal malpractice lawsuit was ever filed against these lawyers.