While this article doesn’t make me proud to be a Badger, it does vindicate me as a proofreader.
Angry Wisconsin court fines sloppy lawyer, gives proofreading tips
MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin appeals court was so angry with a lawyer’s sloppy work that it fined him $500, asked for an investigation into his conduct and gave him tips on proofreading.
Attorney Patrick Hudec of East Troy has shown “a pattern of gross and inexcusable inattention to details,” the District 2 Court of Appeals said in a ruling on Wednesday.
How bad was it? The appeals court cited this error-riddled excerpt from one of Hudec’s filings: “The attorney dictate final changes over the should of a secretary who then printed off an earlier draft and that mistake was not caught prior to signing the document.”
“We are left shaking our heads!” Judge Daniel Anderson wrote for a three-judge panel. “Frankly, we are at a loss to understand what is clearly Hudec’s intentional disregard of the rules and the details, including his failure to proofread.”
In a footnote, Anderson said Hudec should look to the Web site of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s writing center for proofreading help.
Hudec is representing an Italian restaurant in Waterford that was sued by an employee for allegedly violating minimum wage rules. He mistakenly filed an incomplete answer to the complaint, failing to respond to three of the employee’s claims.
A judge ruled in the employee’s favor because of the error, which Hudec said happened when he signed and filed a draft response mistakenly printed by an inexperienced secretary. The appeals court overturned the judge’s ruling, saying the restaurant deserves a chance to fight the case despite Hudec’s mistake.
But Anderson wrote that Hudec’s errors only piled up during the appeal. First, he did not wait for a final order from the judge before he appealed. Then he filed a brief too late and failed to serve a copy on the other side as required.
One of his filings included “salacious material” about an intimate relationship between the employee and the restaurant owner that had nothing to do with the issue being appealed, Anderson wrote. The court fined Hudec $500 for violating “basic rules of appellate practice and procedure” in an attempt to prejudice the case.
Lastly, the court asked the Office of Lawyer Regulation to consider disciplinary action against Hudec, citing “a substantial likelihood” he violated rules of professional conduct.
Reached by phone today, Hudec blamed his “less experienced staff” for most of the mistakes but said he should have caught them. At the same time, he claimed all lawyers routinely make similar mistakes.
“I’ve been practicing law for 30 years. I’ve seen hundreds of law firms and their staff make innocent mistakes, misfilings and the like,” he said. “When they happen, you learn from them, hopefully.”