This really is just too absurd not to write about. The absurd story commanding my fingers to tap these keys today involves a lawyer who managed to blow some significant aspects of the fundamentals of being an ethical lawyer. You may have seen the ABA Journal online story about the now-disbarred lawyer whose absurd story is commanding my fingers to type entitled: “Former lawyer who portrayed Excuseman pleads guilty to client theft.” If not, you can take a quick look at it (and even watch the bizarre montage video of his cosplay/hacky stand-up/performance art in a really, really bad costume) at that link immediately above.
(*Adult subject matter warning, some of the “comedy” in the video is pretty blue, but it’s the stuff that is weirdly done by some other person who is included in the video for no obviously discernible reason and she seems to be reading from printed pages?)
What the ABA Journal article doesn’t exactly do for you is make absolutely plain the timing of the events. Several years before this gentleman ended up getting disbarred, he was doing . . . whatever this thing was . . . some combination of bad stand-up comedy or bad performance art . . . that involved portraying this, “Excuseman,” character who …. I give up. I watched the video at the link and I can’t make heads or tails of the point. I mean it was obviously a cry for help, but I can’t figure out what he thought the point of doing it was. He did spend some real money on pursuing his cosplay dreams and, as it turns out, given the timing of the events it is quite likely he funded the folly with some of the money that he stole from clients.
After first being temporarily suspended, he was disbarred in Illinois in 2015 as a result of his conduct in settling cases of his clients without their consent and pocketing the settlement proceeds. He is back in the news now because he has pled guilty to felony theft arising out of that same conduct.
And, yet, remarkably, the thing about the current version of the story that hits me hardest in terms of dramatic, nigh poetic, irony is it now feels like the person who truly needs to offer a good excuse for their conduct is the prosecutor who ended up agreeing to the plea deal this guy obtained:
Margolis was initially charged with 36 felony counts of theft, theft by deception, misappropriation of financial institution property, continuing a financial crimes enterprise and forgery. But in a plea agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to a single theft count.
He faces up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000 at his sentencing next June.
Apparently, the total amount swindled from clients was as much as $1.1 million. The various articles also indicate that, in the disciplinary proceedings, he was hit with a large restitution order and was separately hit with a large judgment in a legal malpractice case, but the existence of those judgments and awards doesn’t necessarily translate to those dollars ever making it into the hands of those wronged clients.
The articles also indicate that the disbarred lawyer now lives in California and is pursuing a career as a screenwriter. Somehow I don’t imagine Excuseman will be showing up as a character in the fourth Avengers film….so I’m guessing that if those judgments haven’t already been satisfied, they won’t be getting paid in full any time soon.