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VOL. 126 | NO. 33 | Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vic Fleming

He Snuck Into The Bar


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I’m grateful to Martha Neil for her Jan. 10 post at the ABA Journal’s “Law News Now.”

Captioned “Ex-con allegedly worked as bogus lawyer … ,” her post reports that a convicted burglar in Illinois apparently got away with impersonating a lawyer for five years before getting caught.

He is accused of represented clients, who paid him fees in a variety of cases “before finally being caught when a court clerk in suburban Chicago recognized him and blew the whistle.”

A judge found that he was in contempt of court in December and threw him in jail.

The culprit is charged with two counts of impersonation.

Quoting Ms. Neil, who attributes her information to WGN in Chicago, “He never attended a day of law school, the TV station says, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart suspects the … bogus barrister picked up his trial skills from his own experiences of being arrested and prosecuted … .”

The defendant’s father is reported to have told the Chicago Tribune that his son may also have honed his skills by watching TV legal dramas. (Such as “LA Law,” in reruns, perhaps?)

A victim hotline has been set up to begin the process of dealing with aggrieved “clients.”

As is so often the case with “Law News Now,” the comments from readers are as entertaining as the story reported.

Here are a few of them (forgive my not revealing their user names):

“He must have wondered why his cases were taking so long, compared to all the ones on TV.”

“He did things backwards. You’re supposed to become a lawyer and maybe a judge first, then become an ex-con!”

“If he developed his legal skills from watching TV law dramas, was he able to neatly wrap up most cases in an hour, with a victory?”

“How did I make it through law school without watching TV!!??”

“It’s curious that prosecutors or other attorneys don’t have the acumen or curiosity to check the credentials of their adversaries. There isn’t a single matter I handle where I don’t check the bio of attorneys who are both aligned with and against my clients. It helps me understand their strengths and weaknesses …and would uncover fraudsters like this rat.”

“I know a lot of licensed attorneys who are bogus.”

“If this guy could be a successful lawyer without ever going to law school, then why do we require potential lawyers to go to law school?”

“Wow, does this mean the law is so easy and the whole rigors of law school just a ploy by some sadomasochist sadists to make us work and become ummm, learned?”

“I’m reading this right after the item on the law school grad who’s $200,000 in debt and is stuck in a $12/hr job with no prospects. These guys should be introduced to one another.”

“Sounds like he’s got a bright future in politics ….”

“He should have stayed out of the suburbs.”

I’ll add my own to close things out:

Perhaps he should not have snuck into the Bar in the first place.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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