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Banks v. United States

June 14, 2007


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CSP1008-04).(Hon. Noel A. Kramer, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reid, Associate Judge

Argued May 22, 2007

Before REID and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges, and WAGNER, Senior Judge.

This is our fourth case involving appellant, Simon Banks, a 1975 law school graduate who has never been admitted to the Bar of the District of Columbia, nor to any other bar, and who previously has been held in civil contempt, convicted of criminal contempt, and found in violation of trade practices, for acts relating to the unauthorized practice of law. See In re Simon Banks, 805 A.2d 990, 993 (D.C. 2002) (Banks III) (sustaining contempt orders "resulting from appellant's disregard of injunctions issued by this court against the unauthorized practice of law" and affirming an "order directing appellant to pay partial attorney's fees of members of the Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law [], which sought to enforce the court's prior injunction"); Banks v. District of Columbia Dep't of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 634 A.2d 433, 439-40 (D.C. 1993) (Banks II) (sustaining a determination by the District's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs that appellant "engaged in three deceptive trade practices," in violation of the District's Consumer Protection Procedures Act, "based on the unauthorized practice of law"); and In re Simon Banks, 561 A.2d 158, 167-69 (D.C. 1987) (Banks I) (finding, after a hearing conducted by a senior judge of this court on the petition of the court's Committee on Authorized Practice of Law, that "appellant has violated this court's rule prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law," and enjoining appellant from engaging in specified acts relating to the practice of law or the status of a lawyer).

The case before us grew out of a 2002 request by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia for contempt proceedings against Mr. Banks for violation of a 1995 order.*fn1 After the issuance of a show cause order, a hearing took place before a Superior Court judge, sitting by designation. The judge "[found] beyond a reasonable doubt that [Mr. Banks] is guilty of contempt as charged . . . ." Mr. Banks filed an appeal. In his brief on appeal, submitted by a court-appointed attorney, Mr. Banks mainly argues that this court "acted beyond its authority in convicting him of contempt . . . [because] [t]he conduct complained about here is beyond the scope [of the rule regulating unauthorized practice of law]," since it occurred outside the District of Columbia. Alternatively, he asserts that "the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [he] committed criminal contempt," that is, that he "willfully violated" the court's order. We affirm the order of April 8, 2004, adjudging Mr. Banks guilty of criminal contempt as charged.


In our prior cases we recounted part of the protracted history of complaints against Mr. Banks, beginning in 1984, and his persistent violation of court orders enjoining him from holding himself out as a lawyer and engaging in related conduct. We do not repeat that history, except as necessary to an understanding of the case now before us. In January 1995, after finding that Mr. Banks had "flagrantly, intentionally, repeatedly and contumaciously violated virtually every provision of the Court's 1987 injunction," Banks III, supra, 805 A.2d at 995, the Honorable Richard A. Levie, sitting by designation as a member of this court, imposed "an expanded and stricter injunction" ("Order #18"). Id. In 1996, Mr. Banks was convicted on five counts of criminal contempt for violations of the 1995 injunction, but his sentence was suspended and he was placed on five years of conditional probation. In light of allegations that Mr. Banks violated the conditions of his probation, Judge Levie held a hearing. Upon finding repeated violations of the conditions of his probation in August 1997, the judge revoked Mr. Banks' probation, sentenced him to 175 days of incarceration, suspended execution except for twenty-one days, and again placed him on probation. His probation terminated on August 27, 2001.

Undeterred by his criminal contempt conviction and punishment, Mr. Banks engaged in other acts -- from October 2001 to December 2001, and in February 2002, July 2002, and October 2002 -- ostensibly prohibited by Order #18. As a result of Mr. Banks' renewed efforts to circumvent the 1995 permanent injunction, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia filed an application (with a sworn affidavit and exhibits) in this court on December 11, 2002, requesting the initiation of a criminal contempt proceeding against Mr. Banks "for his willful disobedience of this [c]court's Order #18," specifically paragraphs (3), (4) and (6).*fn2 In response to the application and to the accompanying government request for the appointment of a presiding judge, the issuance of a show cause order to Mr. Banks, and the scheduling of a status hearing, the Chief Judge of this court at the time issued an order on December 17, 2002, designating and assigning the Honorable Noel Anketell Kramer, then an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, "to serve as a judge of this court for the purposes of conducting a contempt hearing in [Mr. Banks' case]."*fn3

On March 5, 2003, Judge Kramer ordered Mr. Banks to appear and show cause on March 24, 2003, "why [he] should not be held in criminal contempt and punished for such criminal contempt by reason of his failure and refusal to comply with Order #18." The order to show cause contained four counts of contempt, as proposed by the United States Attorney. These counts related to (1) Mr. Banks' advertisements in a federal publication and on the radio using language prohibited by Order #18 and his failure to include the disclaimer, required by Order #18, pertaining to his lack of authority to practice law in this or any other jurisdiction in the United States; (2) his description of himself in a notice of representation sent to the federal Department of Education "as a former administrative law judge and a provider of nationwide representation," and his omission of the required disclaimer; and (3) his description of himself in a telephone conversation (with a criminal investigator employed by the United States Attorney's office) "as a former administrative law judge and a provider of nationwide representation."

The hearing on the show cause order took place on January 16 and 20, 2004. The government presented testimony from Diane Eickman, a criminal investigator for the United States Attorney's office in the District of Columbia, who on July 10, 2002, called a Virginia telephone number listed in an advertisement placed by Mr. Banks in the Federal Times, a government publication "routinely distributed in the District." She made the call from her office in the District. The purpose of her call was "to see how Mr. Banks would identify himself."*fn4 Ms.Eickman called herself "Diane Eckard" and said she was a federal government employee who "was having a problem with [her] supervisor," and that "the agency [she] worked for was in the District of Columbia." In answering the telephone, Mr. Banks stated, "Judge Banks Group."*fn5 When Ms. Eickman responded, "Judge Banks," the person on the other end of the line replied, "yes."

Tamika Williams, a credit and billing manager for the Army Times (the Federal Times "is a subsidiary of Army Times Publishing" and is "geared toward federal employees"), testified that about 65,000 copies of the Federal Times, a weekly publication, are distributed in the Washington Metropolitan area with the District of Columbia as "a high target area"; that "Dr. Simon Banks and Associates" of Alexandria, Virginia, requested that an advertisement be placed in the Federal Times for nine consecutive weeks beginning on October 8, 2001 and continuing through December 17, 2001. The advertisement stated in pertinent part:


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