In the Matter of Husain

Case Type:
Case Status:
15-3308 and 16-1254 (7th Circuit, Aug 08,2017) Not Published
Where a bankruptcy attorney forges his clients’ signatures, omits material assets of which he is aware, and commits extensive perjury regarding these actions, he is not entitled to remain in the court’s bar.
Procedural context:
The Bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Illinois disbarred Al-Haroon B. Husain (“Husain”), also finding him in contempt of court. Husain appealed the disbarment and the contempt finding to the District Court. The District Court assigned both appeals to the court’s five-member Executive Committee, which handles the court’s disciplinary proceedings. The Executive Committee did not transfer the contempt appeal to a single judge, despite 28 U.S.C. §158(a)’s mandate that he be entitled to review by at least one district judge. The Seventh Circuit remanded the contempt appeal to the District Court for review and decision by a single judge. The Seventh Circuit did, however, affirm the lower court’s holding as to Husain’s disbarment.
Husain’s bankruptcy practice included, as a matter of routine, forging his client’s signatures on various documents, including petitions and schedules. Not only were the petitions and schedules routinely submitted without the client having ever seen them, but the documents also contained misrepresentations as to the debtors’ assets. By way of example, in one instance, Husain filed (and signed) for a client; the schedules omitted two pieces of real property, three vehicles, a bank account, a whole-life insurance policy, and a retirement account (despite the client having disclosed the existence of these assets to Husain). The Seventh Circuit also noted that, in a sample of 110 of Husain’s cases, 93 of them reported the exact same assets ($200 cash, $600 household goods, $200 clothing). When questioned about these practices, Husain was found to be not credible under oath, as the documentary evidence strongly contradicted his statements. On appeal, Husain accepted the District Court judge’s factual findings, and his first argument essentially amounted to: “Everyone does it.” Both the District Court and the Seventh Circuit rejected this sentiment, emphasizing that “most bankruptcy lawyers do not practice the way Husain did.” Husain’s next argument was that his clients authorized him to sign their names. This argument was similarly unavailing, as the Court looked to Rule 1008’s requirement that a bankruptcy lawyer obtain the debtor’s verification for “[a]ll petitions, lists, schedules, statements and amendments thereto”. No verification on the debtor’s oath or affirmation: no valid filing.
Bauer and Easterbrook (DeGulio, District Judge)

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