CHICAGO (CN) - In a stern rebuke of a Chicago lawyer, the 7th Circuit set a $5,000 fine and recommended that his clients sue him for malpractice.
Michael J. Greco represents 12 workers who sued the Cook County prison system for discriminating against blacks in promotions. U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo dismissed the action in September 2008, finding them too dissimilar for joint litigation. He granted plaintiffs 40 days to refile their cases individually.
But three of Greco's clients did not file new complaints until May 2009, and different judges dismissed each case as untimely. Greco appealed to the 7th Circuit.
A three-judge panel called Greco's handling of the case "calamitous," noting that the attorney repeatedly missed filing deadlines and ignored phone calls from the clerk's office.
"The events recounted in this opinion show that Greco is a menace to his clients and a scofflaw with respect to appellate procedure," Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for the court.
Greco's failures are not the only factor that led the employment action to run "off the rails," according to the ruling. "Judge Castillo should not have presented Greco with the opportunity to bungle his clients' cases away," Easterbrook wrote. "There was nothing wrong with the original complaint."
Rather than dismissing the cases, Castillo should have directed the clerk to create multiple docket numbers for the action already on file, allowing the claims to proceed as if they had been filed separately.
To avoid running afoul of the statue of limitations for discrimination claims, Greco ought to have appealed immediately.
"But Greco did not appeal, the time to do so has long passed, and the fact that an un-appealed order dismissing a suit may have been erroneous does not extend the time to file a replacement suit," Easterbrook wrote. Easterbrook ordered Greco to send his clients a copy of the opinion "so that they may consider whether to file malpractice suits against him."