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Attorney Who Faked Illness to Avoid Oral Argument is Suspended

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 24, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last September we posted about a Seventh Circuit opinion that admonished an attorney for his conduct -- or more specifically, his lack of conduct. Surprised? Don't be -- we're in the "Benchslappy" circuit, remember? (Hat tip to Above the Law). Well, what started out as a benchslap has turned into a suspension.

Michael Finn was Kenneth Clark's appellate counsel, and oral arguments were scheduled for April 14, 2011. One problem: Finn didn't show up. Initially, Finn claimed that he was ill, and "not well enough to go to court," reports the ABA Journal. Needless to say, his client lost his appeal.

Seventh Circuit's Benchslap

In the Clark opinion, the Seventh Circuit noted Finn's lack of conduct, and stated that "despite numerous opportunities, [Finn] has failed to offer any explanation -- or even drop a hint -- as to why he abandoned Clark at that critical moment."

Since he failed to appear at oral arguments, and attach a copy of the district court's ruling to appellate brief, the Seventh Circuit "conclude[d] that Finn has acted unprofessionally and that public censure is in order." As a result, the court removed him from the list of eligible lawyers under the Criminal Justice Act for two years, in addition to fining him $1,000. The court also asked that a copy of the opinion be forwarded to the Administrator for the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ("ARDC").

Formal Discipline

The ARDC filed a formal complaint against Michael Finn alleging violations of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, for failing to appear at oral arguments "because [Finn] felt unprepared." On March 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of Illinois announced that "Finn is suspended from the practice of law for sixty (60) days and until he pays restitution in the amount of $5,000 to Bergline Clark."

Michael Finn stated that not showing up for oral arguments was a "terrible decision" and that his not being honest about the reason why was "a huge mistake," reports the ABA Journal. He added, "It's just another story about the bad things that can happen when you're not prepared."

That. Is an understatement.

Tune in on Wednesday when we go over some ways to avoid getting benchslapped in the Seventh Circuit.

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