Appellate Practice

Lawyer who allowed client to write appeals brief is sanctioned for 'incoherent' document

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A federal appeals court has ordered an Aurora, Illinois, solo practitioner to pay attorney fees and double costs to his opponent for allowing his client to write and submit an “incoherent” appellate brief using his electronic signature.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Chicago sanctioned lawyer Jordan Hoffman on Monday, report the National Law Journal and Law360.

In the Dec. 16 order and in a prior November opinion, the appeals court said the “monstrosity of an appellate brief” was “incoherent,” and the appeal was “utterly frivolous.”

The brief “spans 86 interminable pages” and is “neither concise nor clear,” the appeals court said in the Nov. 7 opinion. “It is chock-full of impenetrable arguments and unsupported assertions, and it is organized in ways that escape our understanding.” The decision upheld dismissal of the discrimination suit filed by Hoffman’s client and ordered Hoffman to show cause why he shouldn’t be sanctioned.

In a footnote, the court called the brief “a typographical nightmare” that “uses five different fonts and various font sizes, including three different fonts in one sentence, and capitalizes words seemingly at random.”

Hoffman told the court that he didn’t have time to write an appellate brief or to examine the lower-court record, so he didn’t recognize that this “was a hopeless case.” He also said he authorized the client to submit the brief under his name using his electronic filing credentials.

In his response to the order to show cause, Hoffman said the plaintiff was a longtime friend and he agreed to appear at oral argument for her. She had filed the discrimination case against the Mars Inc. candy company and the manager of its Illinois warehouse without a lawyer.

Hoffman wrote that “these were all grave errors of judgment, and I can only apologize to the court and promise that I will never allow this occur again.

“I have suffered through the most embarrassing and stressful moments of my legal career and perhaps my life during the oral argument and after the publication of the court’s opinion, and my reputation has been tarnished at the highest level as a result of my actions that caused such a scathing opinion in this matter.”

He also said he has “embarrassed the venerable profession of law and the bar to which I have enjoyed the privilege of being a member for over 32 years during which time my competence has not been called into question.”

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