CHICAGO (CN) – In a sharply worded opinion, the 7th Circuit ordered prominent Illinois attorney Walter Maksym to show cause why he should not be removed from the court’s bar, calling his filings in a 2007 civil case “unintelligible” and “riddled with errors.”
Maksym has been a dominant presence in the news this summer as he represents Drew Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant accused of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio. While Peterson retained Joel A. Brodsky to fight the criminal charges, he tapped Maksym for two civil cases.
Peterson has been in jail since 2009 without trial on suspicion of murdering his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. Peterson’s criminal defense team say this condition violates their client’s right to a speedy trial, but the state Supreme Court disagreed Monday.
Maksym was retained as part of an unsuccessful effort to sue JPMorgan Chase & Co after it froze the $220,000 line of credit Peterson took out on his home. He has also threatened to sue Lifetime cable network over plans to produce a film about the case, with Rob Lowe starring as Peterson.
But the federal appeals court rebuked Maksym for his handling of a different case.
Maksym also represents McHenry County resident Michael Stanard, who claims that Sheriff Keith Nygren forced him to hire off-duty deputies as a private security force for events held on his rural outdoor stage.
Nygren allegedly threatened to close the road leading to Stanard’s property if he did not hire the deputies. Stanard says he went along with the arrangement for several years out of fear.
Maksym drafted Stanard’s 2007 complaint against Nygren, 22 deputies and McHenry County. But the courts found his filings woefully deficient. The 52-page-long complaint contained 28 counts that did not specify which defendants were liable for each claim.
“The complaint also included a number of obviously frivolous claims; for example, a violation of the Hobbs Act (a criminal statute that does not provide a private right of action), something called a ‘direct action under [the] U.S. Constitution,’ and a generic ‘federal class action,'” the 7th Circuit explained.
Maksym also missed a number of court deadlines and failed to respond to the defendants’ motions. After multiple failed attempts at revising the complaint and bids for time extensions, U.S. District Judge Frederick Kapala dismissed the action.
“Based on a lack of diligence, including a pattern of waiting until the last minute (sometimes literally) to file their motions to amend with non-compliant proposed amended complaints attached, the failure to comply with this court’s previous orders, and this court’s explicit warning of the consequences for doing so, plaintiffs will not be afforded another opportunity to replead,” Kapala wrote.
A three-judge panel was unmoved by Stanard’s appeal and instead adding its own harsh criticism.
The complaint, which the court described as “gibberish,” contained 23 sentences with more than 100 words and one 385-word sentence.
“We acknowledge the unfortunate reality that poor writing occurs too often in our profession, but Maksym’s complaint is far outside the bounds of acceptable legal writing,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote in a footnote.
“To form a defense, a defendant must know what he is defending against; that is, he must know the legal wrongs he is alleged to have committed and the factual allegations that form the core of the claims asserted against him,” she added. “Deciphering even that much from the second amended complaint is next to impossible.”
The court ordered a copy of its order forwarded to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
Maksym told the Chicago Tribune that he was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time of the filing.
“It was an isolated period where I was suffering from health problems that affected my ability to practice,” he said.