EMBARGO: For publication Sunday, Nov. 25 and later

A Shelby County man has lost his appeal of a federal tax evasion case, and his Nokomis attorney is in hot water with the chief judge of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A Shelby County man has lost his appeal of a federal tax evasion case, and his Nokomis attorney is in hot water with the chief judge of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in his opinion earlier this month that all 19 issues raised by Denny Patridge in his appeal of criminal convictions for tax evasion, money laundering and wire fraud were “frivolous,” as was his appeal from tax court.

Easterbrook also wrote scathingly of Jerold W. Barringer, Patridge’s attorney during the original trial, in tax court and during his three appeals. Barringer “has performed below the standard of a pro se litigant” (an untrained person who acts as his own lawyer), Easterbrook said, adding that he has doubts about Barringer’s fitness to practice law.

Easterbrook gave Barringer 14 days to show why he shouldn’t be fined $10,000 ”for his frivolous arguments and non-compliance with the rules,” and why he shouldn’t be suspended from practice until he demonstrates “an ability to litigate an appeal competently and responsibly.”

Barringer, admitted to practice in Illinois in 1983, did not return a phone message to his office on Friday seeking comment.

Easterbrook has the authority to suspend Barringer from practice in federal court within the 7th Circuit. But only the state Supreme Court can suspend an attorney’s license to practice law in Illinois.

Patridge, 58, who operated an insurance agency out of his home in Strasburg, shielded his income through three offshore trusts, two of which listed expenses equal to income and the third of which never filed a tax return.

Patridge filed tax returns in some years, but not in others, and claimed to have negligible income.

He refused to cooperate with an IRS audit, which found he owed $125,000 in taxes for 1996 and 1997. Penalties took the total to more than $200,000, plus interest.

A federal court jury in Urbana convicted Patridge in July 2005. He subsequently was sentenced to five years in prison, fined $100,000 and ordered to pay his back taxes and accumulated penalties.

Easterbrook said many of the 19 issues raised by Patridge in his criminal appeal “are in the style of tax-protest arguments that we might expect from a layman representing himself but do not expect to see in a brief filed by a member of the bar.”

For example, Patridge’s appeal claimed that avoiding taxes by assigning earned income to a third party can be penalized only if the taxpayer knows the section number of the Internal Revenue Service code that applies. Easterbrook dismissed that notion and said the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that Patridge knew he had to pay taxes on what he made from his business.

“It is scarcely possible to imagine otherwise; the system of offshore trusts and the fictive loans show that Patridge was trying to hide income that he knew to be taxable,” Easterbook wrote. “Why else all this folderol?”

Patridge also challenged his conviction on the grounds that the IRS’s Form 1040 has displayed the same Office of Management and Budget control number since 1981, when it should be assigned a new number every three years. That, he claimed, made the forms illegal.

“How any of this could block a conviction for tax evasion is a mystery,” Easterbrook wrote.

Of Barringer, the judge wrote: “The problem is not simply his inability to distinguish between plausible and preposterous arguments. It is his disdain for the norms of legal practice and the rules of procedure.”

Barringer’s statement of facts in the case “contains not a single fact and verges on illiteracy,” Easterbrook wrote.

Barringer was censured by the state Supreme Court in 2001. In a 1999 divorce case, the court said, Barringer filed a motion for a judge substitution that contained statements about the judge that Barringer knew or should have known were false.

Peter Rotskoff, manager of the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission’s Springfield office, said he couldn’t comment on any specific case. However, he indicated that the ARDC regularly reviews appellate court opinions in which sanctions against lawyers are requested.

Chris Dettro can be reached at (217) 788-1510 or chris.dettro@sj-r.com.