"Bad day" is a relative term. The day we got mugged in broad daylight only ranks as absurdly comical in our memory, but a day plagued with wet pant hems can easily rank among our worst days ever.
Here's one day we hope you never experience: the day that Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge (and living legend) Frank Easterbrook has a hand in your disbarment from federal practice.
Unfortunately, that day came for Milwaukee criminal defense attorney Bridget Boyle-Saxton last week.
Boyle-Saxton handles a "significant number of cases, both civil and criminal, in federal court," according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted in a disciplinary matter opinion last week that Boyle-Saxton abandoned a client last year in a criminal appeal. She didn't take the requisite steps to ensure that the transcript was prepared and the record filed. She didn't pay the filing and docketing fees.
She didn't do anything.
To be fair, Boyle-Saxton was equally unresponsive when the appellate court turned its attention from her client to her own shortcomings in the case. The Seventh Circuit issued eight orders, directives, or time extensions to Boyle-Saxton regarding her performance; she only responded three times. The court noted that Boyle-Saxton's last filing, a response to an order to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken, "did not meet her obligations" because she neither explained why she let so many deadlines pass without action, nor addressed the disciplinary issues the court raised.
Boyle-Saxton offered excuses to the court: She said that she had surgery, that she mistakenly thought she had been granted four weeks' additional time to file instead of one, and that she has been busy representing her clients at trials in state court. The Seventh Circuit, however, was unsympathetic. The court described Boyle-Saxton's conduct was "unprofessional," "reprehensible," and "intolerable," and determined that she was "unfit to practice law" in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
We understand the urge to take on as many clients as possible in a struggling economy, but lawyers have an ethical obligation to take no more work than they can perform. Don't become a disbarment statistic like Bridget Boyle-Saxton; if you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to handle all of your clients, enlist a colleague to take some of your cases.
- In Re: Bridget Boyle-Saxton (Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Attorney Misconduct vs. Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Don't be a Saint (FindLaw's Fifth Circuit blog)
- Stellar Record Doesn't Mitigate Attorney Misconduct (FindLaw's Fourth Circuit blog)
- Attorney's Nap During Trial Doesn't Mean Counsel Was Ineffective (FindLaw's Sixth Circuit blog)