Legal Ethics

Blistering 7th Circuit Opinion Fines Lawyer $5K, Orders Him to Alert Clients to Possible Malpractice


Yesterday can’t have been a good one for attorney Michael J. Greco, who apparently has found a foray into federal court in Chicago a tougher slog than he may have initially anticipated.

The 20-year Chicago practitioner was excoriated and fined $5,000 in a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion (PDF) authored by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook that describes an employment discrimination case handled by Greco as a “litigation [that] has gone off the rails because of multiple errors.”

Not all of the mistakes were the lawyer’s, however: While Greco dropped the ball by not promptly filing individual complaints after Judge Ruben Castillo dismissed the joint action he initially pursued in the Northern District of Illinois, “Judge Castillo should not have presented Greco with the opportunity to bungle his clients’ cases away,” the 7th Circuit states. “There was nothing wrong with the original complaint.”

After a lengthy civil procedure lesson, the opinion goes on to say that “Greco’s calamitous handling of this litigation in the district court has been followed by a sloppy performance in this court,” including “procedural gaffes, three of which led to orders to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed—and one of which led to his clients’ brief being struck.”

The opinion concludes with a finding that Greco “has comported himself unprofessionally,” fines him $5,000 (payable within 14 days) and orders him to send copies of the ruling to his clients in the case “so that they may consider whether to file malpractice suits against him.”

Easterbrook also calls Greco “a menace to his clients and a scofflaw with respect to appellate procedure” and suggests that the federal district court “may wish to consider whether he should remain a member of its bar.”

Reached by the ABA Journal, Greco said he could not comment at this time on the ongoing case. His disciplinary record since his 1989 admission is unblemished, according to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission website.

Hat tip: Above the Law.

Additional coverage:

Chicago Tribune: “Chicago lawyer reprimanded by federal appeals court”

Updated on March 24 to include response from Greco.

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