The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled that lawyers cannot resign to avoid the embarrassment of disbarment.

When a lawyer is disbarred from practices before the court, the court does not want to leave the impression that the separation was innocent if in fact it was precipitated by the lawyer's wrongdoing and a lawyer cannot avoid disbarment by resignation, the court has ruled.

The ruling was in regard to Lawrence Scott Wick, a lawyer who was disbarred by the Illinois Supreme Court in Sept. 2010 for fraudulently over-billing two of his clients by more than a million dollars.

While the discipline proceeding was pending in Illinois, Wick had filed several petitions for resigning voluntarily from the federal bar. However, in none of his petitions, he had mentioned the disciplinary proceeding that was initiated against him.

Rather, Wick had told the federal court that he wanted to resign because he was closing his law practice, did not appear before the court in more than a decade, had been allowed to resign from other bars and had not been suspended, disbarred or disciplined by any court.

However, Judge Richard Posner has opined that although what Wick says is true, it is misleading in view of the pending disciplinary proceeding.

When an attorney is removed from the roll of attorneys admitted to practice before this court, we don't want to leave the impression that the separation was innocent if in fact it was precipitated by the attorney's wrongdoing, Posner wrote.

In seeking to resign from the bar of our court, Wick has managed to compound the misconduct that led to his disbarment by the Supreme Court of Illinois.

The court said Wick had requested it to suspend its disciplinary proceeding until the U.S. Supreme Court acts on a petition for certiorari that he has filed, challenging his disbarment from the Illinois bar.

However, the court said it is unable to entertain his request and considers him disbarred from the federal bar as well until the U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari and orders him reinstated to the Illinois bar. At that time, he can seek reinstatement to our bar as well, the court said.