September 27, 2013
Lawyer is accused of faking illness to avoid oral arguments; ethics complaint says he didn’t vomit
An Illinois lawyer is accused in an ethics complaint of faking illness to avoid oral arguments before the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Aug. 29 complaint by the Illinois Registration and Disciplinary Commission alleges that Michael Joseph Finn told a court clerk on April 14, 2011—the day of oral arguments—that he had vomited that morning and was too ill to come to court. In reality, the complaint alleges, Finn was not ill. “He did not vomit and he was well enough to go to court,” the complaint alleges. “Respondent did not go to court because he felt unprepared.”
The complaint does not cite the basis for that conclusion. It does say Finn had paid a brief writer $5,000 to prepare drafts of appeals briefs on behalf of his client, Kenneth Clark. Finn had accepted $15,000 to represent Clark.
According to the complaint, the clerk’s office told Finn to keep his phone nearby in case his appearance was required, but Finn did not answer or return phone messages left by the clerk.
The 7th Circuit panel held oral arguments without Finn, and Finn’s client lost the appeal. In an order to show cause, the appeals court said Finn should supply medical documentation of his illness, such as a certificate showing his admission to a hospital emergency room. Finn supplied no documentation, and the court fined him $1,000 in its Sept. 15, 2011 opinion, the complaint says.