Legal Ethics

Lawyer Can’t Resign from Bar to Avoid Embarrassing Expulsion, 7th Circuit Says


A federal appeals court is refusing to allow a disbarred lawyer to resign from the federal bar in an apparent effort to avoid the embarrassment of expulsion.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Lawrence Scott Wick, who was disbarred by the state of Illinois for fraudulently overbilling clients, Courthouse News Service reports. The court ordered Wick disbarred from the 7th Circuit, but said he can seek reinstatement if he succeeds in an effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his Illinois disbarment.

While the state ethics case was pending, Wick had made repeated requests to withdraw from the federal bar, but they were not acted on because of a clerical error.

Wick had told the 7th Circuit he wanted to resign because he was closing his law practice, had not had a case before the court in more than a decade, had been allowed to resign from other bars, and had not been suspended, disbarred or disciplined by any court. “All this was literally true, so far as we know, but it was misleading in view of the pending disciplinary proceeding,” the 7th Circuit said in an opinion by Judge Richard Posner.

“When an attorney is removed from the roll of attorneys admitted to practice before this court, we don’t want to leave the impression that the separation was innocent if in fact it was precipitated by the attorney’s wrongdoing,” Posner wrote.

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