(CN) – The 7th Circuit ruled that an attorney cannot resign from the bar to avoid disbarment.
Lawrence Scott Wick was disbarred by the Illinois Supreme Court for fraudulently overbilling his clients.
While discipline proceedings were pending in Illinois, Wick made several requests to withdraw voluntarily from the federal bar. Due to clerical error, however, Wick’s requests were not acted upon.
“The question whether and when a lawyer should be permitted to resign from a bar is novel in this court, and so we have decided to address it in a published opinion,” Judge Richard Posner wrote for the court.
Only one other resignation has been accepted in the history of the bar by a lawyer who simply did not intend to handle any further cases in the court.
But Wick’s intentions were not so innocent.
“Why a lawyer would bother to request permission to resign a membership that imposes no financial or other obligations (such as commitment to an organization’s principles) is unclear, and this leads us to speculate that the most common reason is a desire to avoid expulsion – a desire that should not be honored,” Posner wrote.
“In seeking to resign from the bar of our court, Wick has managed to compound the misconduct that led to his disbarment.”
After he was ordered to demonstrate why he should not be disbarred by the Illinois Attorney and Registration Disciplinary Commission, Wick filed his petitions for resignation without mentioning the order.
Wick asked the court to suspend his disciplinary proceeding until the Supreme Court rules on a petition for certiorari regarding his Illinois State disbarment.
The court ordered Wick disbarred, but offered to reconsider if the Supreme Court ruled in his favor on the Illinois State bar decision.