Lawyer is Ordered to Tell Future Clients He is a Crook, Cheat, Thief And a Liar

Lawyer is Ordered to Tell Future Clients He is a Crook, Cheat, Thief And a Liar

With today’s overly-litigious society and a humorless justice system that no longer sees the harmlessness of some teenage hijinks, it’s often refreshing to see a no-nonsense judge who is willing to succumb to more-creative means of enacting justice. One such judge is making the news (again) for his courtroom conduct.


A Wisconsin judge who sentenced a lawyer to five days in jail on Thursday thought it appropriate to continue the punishment with a condition he deemed a “moving jail.”

Judge Philip Kirk of Waupaca County told Appleton lawyer Michael Petersen that during his 12 months of probation he will have to inform every client that he is a crook, cheat, thief and liar, the Appleton Post-Crescent reports. The sentence was for contempt of court.

Kirk said the condition will put a “moving jail” around Petersen, and he doesn’t care if it puts a crimp in his law practice, according to the Post-Crescent account. “I want you to have as much business as a pimp in a nursing home,” Kirk said.

According to the Post-Crescent story, the pimp comment was one of Kirk’s “more printable phrases” during a 90-minute hearing in which the judge “lit into Petersen with a run of R-rated language.”

Petersen, 33, was accused of lying about a plea deal with a prosecutor and using phony documents to back up the claim. According to the criminal complaint, Petersen advised the client to plead guilty to armed robbery because the prosecutor had agreed to later downgrade the charge to attempted theft. The prosecutor said there was no such deal.

Petersen’s attorney, Craig Mastantuono, told the Post-Crescent that Petersen was getting counseling for poor decision-making. “Just because somebody makes a mistake doesn’t mean they’re a bad lawyer or incapable of doing their job,” he said. “Even when that mistake is due to a poor choice.”

This is not the first time Judge Kirk has received publicity for making inflammatory comments in court. Kirk also made the news in 2011 when he told a defendant accused of molestation that the defendant was “born gayer than a sweet smelling jock strap.”

Lawyers are not above the law and while a simple fine might not be a big deal to this particular attorney, I’m confident that years from now, he will remember this punishment and his conduct that incurred it.

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