Legal Industry News

June 1, 2012

Wisconsin Lawyer Found Guilty of Contempt of Court For Failing to Heed 1988 Court Order against Unauthorized Practice of Law in Washington

Benoit Brookens, 62, of Washington, D.C., has been found guilty of four counts of misdemeanor contempt of court for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

The Honorable Jóse M. López, who presided over a trial in the case, issued the decision. Brookens, who is scheduled for sentencing on June 22, 2012, and faces up to two years in prison. Additionally he also is forced to pay a four thousand dollar fine.

In 1988, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in Brookens v. United States, found that Brookens was not licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia, and ordered him not to do so. The Court of Appeals specifically instructed Brookens not to refer to himself using the titles of “esquire” or “counsel,” to file documents, or to represent anyone.

At the time of the order, Brookens was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, but he was not admitted to practice in the District of Columbia.

For more than two decades, despite the court’s orders, and multiple subsequent admonitions from D.C. agencies, including four administrative law judges, Brookens continued to use the titles of “esquire” and “counsel. In doing this, he also represented tenants involved in a landlord/tenant case. Ultimately, a judge dismissed with prejudice the tenants’ case, partly as a result of Brookens’s refusal to comply with the court’s orders.

Judge López stated that he did not find Brookens credible on any issue in the contempt case. Furthermore, Judge Lopez mentioned that throughout the entire trial process, he found the defendant’s conduct evasive.

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