7th Circuit, Benchslaps, Federal Judges, Judicial Divas, Solo Practitioners

Benchslap of the Day: A Billy Madison Style Rambling, Incoherent Complaint

'At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.'

It’s not every day that attorneys repeatedly file “unintelligible” complaints that are “riddled with errors.” (Okay, maybe it is every day.)

But it’s really not every day that Drew Peterson’s attorney — yes, that Drew Peterson — attempts to file the same complaint three times, appeals to the Seventh Circuit only to get smacked down, and is then ordered to show cause as to why his federal license to practice shouldn’t be tossed out.

Let’s take a look at what Walter Maksym attempted to file, and why he faced the wrath of the Seventh Circuit earlier this week….

Before we get to the juicy bits, we’ll give you some basic background on the case. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Maksym was representing Michael Stanard, who owns the single-runway Galt Airport in the small McHenry County town of Greenwood. Stanard, who built an open-air amphitheater on the property where he hosted concerts, alleged that the county sheriff was forcing him to hire his deputies.

The county denied the claims.

The appeals court found that a federal court judge properly dismissed Stanard’s case after giving Maksym three chances to file a lawsuit with clearly stated legal claims.

Apparently the courts in Illinois operate under a “three strikes and you’re out” theory of law, and on appeal to the Seventh Circuit, Judge Diane Sykes was one mean umpire.

In an opinion full of judicial divaliciousness, Judge Sykes laid down the law, noting that “[e]ach iteration of the complaint was generally incomprehensible and riddled with errors, making it impossible for the defendants to know what wrongs they were accused of committing.”

Judge Sykes then broke down Maksym’s errors, one by one, in bullet-point fashion. We’ve included a sampling of the best ones here for your enjoyment:

Judge Diane Sykes

  • Lack of punctuation. At least 23 sentences contained 100 or more words. This includes sentences of 385, 345, and 291 words but does not include sentences set off with multiple subsections.
  • Near incomprehensibility. Much of the writing is little more than gibberish.
  • Grammatical and syntactical errors. The district court put it best: “The grammatical and spelling errors” are “too numerous to add ‘[sic]’ where required.”

Have you ever seen a 345-word sentence before? Neither have I… until now. Judge Sykes included this trainwreck of a sentence in a footnote that spanned three pages, noting that “Maksym’s complaint is far outside the bounds of acceptable legal writing.” Behold the horrors of the longest sentence in the world (all errors in the original):

That pursuant to the RICO Act, Defendants extortive activities constituted a Pattern of Racketeering activity and conspiracy involving violations of 1956(a)(1)(B)(ii), and 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (wire fraud—the use of interstate mail or wire facilities, here telephone and facsimile transmissions), or the causing of any of those things promoting unlawful activity), and 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (interference with commerce and extortion by using and threatening to use legitimate governmental powers to obtain an illegitimate objectives under color of official right by wrongful plan, extortion, intimidation and threat of force and/or other unlawful consequence and through fear and misuse of there office to obstruct, hinder, interfere with, and/or affect commerce and the use and enjoyment of Plaintiffs’ property and obtaining, as uniformed public officials payment for unwanted services to which they were not entitled by law, attempting to conceal from the United States of America their true and correct income and the nature thereof so obtained from Plaintiffs in order to attempt to evade paying lawful taxes thereon in violation of 26 U.S. § 7201, et. seq., thereby using the governmental powers with which they have been entrusted to gain personal or illegitimate rewards and payments which they knew or should have known were made and/or obtained in return for the colorable official acts as aforesaid, and knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity all in violation of RICO and the other laws set forth herein, inter alia, as well as acts chargeable under any of the following provisions of the laws of the State of Illinois 720 ILCS 5/33-3(d) (official misconduct); 720 ILCS 5/1211 (criminal home invasion); 720 ILCS 5/19-4 (criminal trespass to a residence) 720 ILCS 5/19-4); (theft 720 ILCS 5/16 (a)(1)&(2) by knowingly obtaining or exerting unauthorized and/or through threat control over Plaintiff’s property as aforesaid.

What in the hell is that? If you’re interested in seeing more, the opinion is available here.

So what did Maksym have to say for himself? In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he blamed his problems on his cancer treatment, stating, “It was an isolated period where I was suffering from health problems that affected my ability to practice.”

We feel for you Maksym, we really do, but maybe you shouldn’t have been representing people when your brain wasn’t working. We award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Drew Peterson attorney criticized by federal appeals court for his work on another case [Chicago Tribune]
7th Circuit bench-slaps attorney for poor writing threatening him with loss of federal bar membership [Legal Skills Prof Blog]
7th Circuit Slaps Lawyer for 345-Word Sentence and Briefs Full of ‘Gibberish’ [ABA Journal]

(hidden for your protection)

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