U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recent Ethics Decisions

Court Affirms Sanctions Against Lawyer for Attorney's Fee 'Stunt'

It's really not necessary to read the tea leaves in court decisions.

A form of divination, tasseography is the practice of telling a person's fortune by reading patterns in tea leaves. It is wholly baloney, yet even lawyers try to read things into the leaves of court decisions all the time.

In Bell v. Vacuforce, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was quite clear about the lawyers' positions in the case. The judges called out one lawyer for an attorney's fee "stunt," and chided the other lawyer, too.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was tasked again with reviewing a class action matter that involved an attorney who sent thousands of unsolicited "junk faxes" to prospective clients. This is the third time that this same junk fax case has been before this circuit.

While sending unsolicited solicitations can run amok of ethical rules, the attorney at the center of it all actually found himself facing allegations of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which requires "junk faxes" to contain an "opt-out" provision. This last appeal, though unsuccessful, presented another, albeit much more novel, approach to gutting the potential $4.2 million award.

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.

Here's a question for you: How do you prove that you were ill? In the absence of proof, how do you prove that two years after the fact?

That's what attorney Michael Finn is wondering.


Michael Finn represented Kenneth Clark in the appeal of his criminal conviction for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. Oral arguments were scheduled for April 14, 2011, and on that date, Finn didn't show up to oral arguments.

In a letter to counsel for the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ("ARDC"), the ABA Journal reports that Finn explained his failure to show up:

Attorney Schooled by 7th Cir in 1L Contracts, Fee Disputes

Every practicing attorney will eventually have a fee dispute with a client. Call it the Murphy's Law of client relations. When such a dispute arises, how should one respond?

Do you: (a) Make reasonable attempts to obtain payment from the client? (b) File an allegedly frivolous attorney's lien for more twice what you say that you are owed? or (c) Set fire to the client's car and tell his children that they are dressed funny?

We'd go with the third option. Barry Gomberg, however, reportedly chose the second route. The man with "Over 33 Years Of Success" was retained to represent a client during mediation of a whistle-blower dispute. That agreement provided for a non-refundable retainer of $2,500, plus a ten percent contingency fee on all "monies and items of value that we secure for you ..."

Save the Drama for Your Mama: 7th Cir Can't Hear Disbarment Appeal

Do you know why you can’t appeal a state disbarment decision in federal appellate court? Mahendra Mehta does.

Mahendra Mehta filed a civil rights claim against the Illinois Supreme Court, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, and a Review Board of the Commission, claiming that an order of the Illinois Supreme Court suspending his license to practice law violated his right to due process. The district court dismissed Mehta’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

Because the suspension order was the final judgment of a state court rather than a federal court, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal.

Preposterous Federal Removal Attempt? Say Hello to Sanctions

When do sanctions transcend beyond warranted to the rarefied ranks of "richly deserved"? Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook offered a little insight on that topic this week based on an attorney's botched attempt to remove an action for sanctions in a lawsuit to a federal court.

Attorney David Novoselsky, purporting to represent plaintiff MB Financial as guardian of minor Cristina Zvunca's financial interests, sued six defendants in a state court. His suit alleged, among other things, that several of the defendants had abused Zvunca.

Wisconsin Lawyer Slapped with Disbarment For Filing Failures

"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.

Seventh Circuit Threatens Attorney Sanctions for Frivolous Appeal

As observers of the legal world, we implore you: Don't irritate the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, or you could be slapped with attorney sanctions and a scathing opinion that forever links your name with the term "bungling attorney" on the Internet.

Cathleen Sambrano filed a discrimination charge against her employer, the U.S. Navy, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Because Sambrano was employed by a federal agency, EEOC had authority to resolve the grievance rather than simply mediate. The EEOC found that Sambrano's claim was unsupported.