Every now and then, even I am shocked by a court decision on a legal ethics issue. Here, the Appellate Court first remanded a case to the trial court. On remand, the trial court found that the attorney for the plaintiff had forged documents to make an untimely appeal appear timely. Accordingly the appeal was dismissed.
The court’s summary explains its affirmance of the trial court’s findings:
¶ 1 This case comes before us for a second time. In the prior appeal, we held that Derek and Steven Lurie’s complaint adequately stated a cause of action against the defendants, Philip Wolin and Wolin, Kelter & Rosen, Ltd., for legal malpractice. We reversed the dismissal of the complaint. Lurie v. Wolin, 2014 IL App (1st) 130661-U. On remand, defendants asked the circuit court to reconsider the issue of whether it lost jurisdiction over the case before it entered the order we reviewed in the prior appeal. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court found that the Luries’ attorney filed documents with date stamps falsified to make the court believe that the attorney had filed the documents within the time permitted. The circuit court found that it had lost jurisdiction in 2011, before it filed the order we reviewed in the prior appeal, when the Luries failed to timely file a motion to reconsider the dismissal of the complaint with prejudice.¶ 2 On appeal, the Luries argue that the law of the case doctrine barred relitigation of the jurisdictional issue and that the evidence did not support the finding that the circuit court lost jurisdiction in 2011. We agree with the Luries that the circuit court’s original implicit ruling that it had jurisdiction became the law of the case. However, because the allegations supported a finding that the Luries’ attorney perpetrated a fraud on the court, we find that the law of the case doctrine does not prevent us from considering the jurisdictional issue. The circuit court’s finding of fact that the attorney falsified the documents is not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, and it supports the ruling that the circuit court lost jurisdiction over the case in 2011, before it entered the order we reviewed in the prior appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the circuit court’s judgment dismissing the Luries’ complaint.
Comment: the lawyer who allegedly forged documents to make it appear that the appeal was timely has been disbarred.