Legal Ethics

10th Circuit Suspends Lawyer for 'Meritless Contentions,' Says $16K in Prior Fines Didn't Deter Him

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Saying that nearly $16,000 in fines imposed on an Illinois lawyer for unethical conduct in earlier federal cases didn’t have the desired deterrent effect, a federal appeals court has now suspended him indefinitely from practice in that jurisdiction for making frivolous arguments in an appeal of a tax lien foreclosure.

Jerold W. Barringer, 53, can apply for readmission to the bar of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after one year, the State Journal-Register reports. He remains licensed and in good standing in Illinois, where he has no pending disciplinary cases.

The court noted that Barringer had been sanctioned $10,000 in 2007 by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago for unethical conduct including frivolous arguments he made in another tax-related case. Since then, Barringer has twice been sanctioned in U.S. Tax Court, and was required to pay $1,200 in one of the cases and $4,725 in the other.

“The prior instances demonstrate that monetary sanctions have not proven effective in deterring Mr. Barringer from unethical conduct,” the 10th Circuit wrote in its opinion earlier this month. “We also note that Mr. Barringer is unapologetic about his consumption of court time with meritless contentions. Significantly, he offers no assurances that he will not continue to make frivolous arguments regarding the authority of the Internal Revenue Service if given the chance.”

In the case that got him into trouble with the 10th Circuit, Barringer reportedly argued that the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t legally exist.

In a prior Aug. 31, 2009 opinion (PDF) concerning Barringer and, it appears, the same client, Lindsey Springer, the 10th Circuit denied a tax commissioner motion to sanction both.

“Although Mr. Springer’s appellate briefs are far from a model of clarity,” the court wrote at that time, “he has managed to advance several arguments in this appeal that raise difficult issues.” Hence, “we cannot say that this appeal is sufficiently frivolous to justify the imposition of sanctions.”

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