If there’s any venue appropriate for offering excuses for one’s own misbehavior, it’s a court of law.
So when “Excuseman” showed up in Cook County Circuit Court this week, it was no surprise he offered a more favorable view of himself to the judge than the criminal charges against him would suggest.
“I fought for the little guy as a trial lawyer, against big corporations and insurance companies. ... I dedicated my professional life to seeking justice,” Jordan Margolis said.
The disbarred lawyer also dedicated his life to another pursuit. He created the comedy persona Excuseman, complete with costume: an eye-catching blue body suit, cape, purple mask and orange skullcap.
“Excuseman is here for all occasions. ... I can get you out of any jam you want,” his character would say.
Excuseman’s excuses, however, came up a little bit short with Circuit Judge Erica Reddick, who sentenced him to three years in prison.
It seems the lawyer who bragged that he fought for the little guy against the big guy stole large-dollar settlements he won from the big guy on behalf of the little guy.
The state’s lawyer disciplinary commission filed charges against Margolis in 2013 alleging he stole more than $1 million in settlement money from 10 clients. His law license was quickly suspended while the ARDC pursued disciplinary measures and a criminal investigation ensued.
Margolis didn’t respond to the ARDC charges, prompting a hearing panel to recommend that he be disbarred by default. It also recommended Margolis be required to pay restitution ranging from $58,950 to $297,440 to clients and found that “all of (his victims) suffered significant financial hardship and emotional distress.”
In January 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court accepted the hearing panel’s recommendation, disbarring Margolis.
What did he do with his clients’ money? The ARDC said he spent it for “his own business and personal purposes.”
Robert Loeb, Margolis’ lawyer, portrayed his client as someone who simply got in over his head financially and took client money to stay afloat, all the while intending to repay it.
“He was basically funding his business while waiting for additional money to come it,” Loeb said.
The online publication Above the Law characterized Margolis’ situation as “tragic,” one caused by his fixation on a class-action lawsuit he filed that would generate huge legal fees.
Above the Law said the lawsuit “alleged firefighters suffered hearing loss from cab-mounted sirens made by Oak Brook-based Federal Signal Corp., but the company has said that the sirens were necessary to warn drivers and that firefighters simply needed to wear protection for their ears.”
It quoted one of his friends, Lee Schneider, as saying, “He had this delusional idea that this firefighter case was going to make millions of dollars. He got addicted to the firefighter case. ... He thought it was money on the craps table, and he lost. But it was with other people’s money.”
Loeb dismissed the commercial possibilities of Excuseman as playing any role in Margolis’ legal and professional problems. But Margolis’ flair for showmanship is evident. He wrote Excuseman books and produced Excuseman comedy videos for YouTube.
After his law license was suspended, the 61-year-old Northwestern University law school graduate moved to Los Angeles and worked as a screenwriter under the name of Jack Leiv.
After pleading guilty and being sentenced to a single count of felony theft, he’ll be living in the Illinois Department of Corrections for a while, but probably not for long.
The corrections department shuttles nonviolent offenders serving short stints in and out of their institutions at warp speed. To get out early, Excuseman won’t even need to offer an excuse.