Legal Ethics

Does 'Esq.’ Mean Attorney? Suspended Lawyer Claims It Also Refers to Readers of the Magazine

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A suspended California lawyer who claims the word “Esq.” has multiple meanings has failed to persuade an ethics review board he deserves to continue practicing law.

The lawyer, John Mark Heurlin, is facing a recommended disbarment for holding himself out as a lawyer while representing himself. The Review Department of the California State Bar Court rejected the lawyer’s claim that he could refer to himself as “Esq.” and “attorney” in pro se litigation, the Legal Profession Blog reports.

Heurlin had also used a letterhead that referred to the “Law Offices of John M. Heurlin” and an email address that read “[email protected],” according to the review department opinion (PDF).

Heurlin had argued the word “Esquire” has many meanings, including that of a property owner and subscriber to the magazine Esquire. The Review Department said the argument fails because the focus is not on single usage of a particular word. “Instead, we consider the context of the words and the general course of conduct,” the opinion said.

Heurlin “repeatedly and consciously flouted the authority of the courts” in pro se litigation “by continuing to file pleadings misrepresenting himself as a licensed attorney in good standing and entitled to practice law when clearly he is not,” according to the opinion.

Disbarment is appropriate, the review department said, because Heurlin has three previous disciplines, two of them private reprimands. The suspension stemmed from improperly withholding settlement funds as a fee.

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