Introducing the Jumbo Award and Its First Recipient: John Mark Heurlin, Esquire.

Today Ethics Alarms is launching a new category, the Jumbo Award. The Jumbo is named after the famous moment in the 1935 musical (and 1962 movie adaptation)“Jumbo” in which a clown, played in both by the sublime Jimmy Durante, is trying to sneak the largest elephant in the world out of the circus, which has been seized by creditors.  A sheriff intercepts the would-be elephant-napper, and demands, “Where do you think you are going with that elephant?” To which Durante’s character replies innocently, as if the pachyderm at the end of the rope in his hand is invisible, “Elephant? What elephant?”

Henceforth, the Jumbo will be periodically awarded to an ethical miscreant who continues to try to brass his or her way out of an obvious act of ethical misconduct when caught red-handed and there is no hope of ducking the consequences. And the first recipient is faux lawyer John Mark Huerlin.

Huerlin was suspended from the practice of law, yet was caught representing himself as a lawyer in several ways, which you cannot do while you are suspended. To do so is an ethical violation in itself—dishonest, defiance of the bar, and the unauthorized practice of law. Nonetheless, he used a letterhead that referred to the “Law Offices of John M. Heurlin” and an email address that read “” But the real kicker was that Heurlin held himself out as an attorney in litigation on his own behalf, by following his name with “Esquire” on court pleadings.

Huerlin told the bar that he could explain everything. Esquire means that I’m a lawyer in good standing? My goodness! This is all a big misunderstanding, then. I didn’t use “Esquire” to indicate that I was a lawyer. I thought “Esquire” just meant that I was a subscriber to the magazine, Esquire!

Now either disbarred or soon to be, Mr. Huerlin is officially authorized to replace that confusing reference to his reading habits with a new suffix, so he can present himself as John Mark Huerlin, Jumbo.


Facts: ABA Journal

Graphic: Abracadabra

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at


4 thoughts on “Introducing the Jumbo Award and Its First Recipient: John Mark Heurlin, Esquire.

  1. Wasn’t esquire something any of the British upper classes used if they didn’t have a title, then also as a courtesy title for any man in a formal context, and later to be claimed by the pompous?
    So when did lawyers appropriate esquire all to themselves?

    • American lawyers have used “Esquire” as physicians and Ph.D.s (the latter only if they want to) use “Doctor” to easily denote their professions or academic standing. In the case of “doctor,” however, and if you lived in the 19th century, you may have a point, because then barbers were also often used as a town’s “doctor,” and were often referred to as such. “Esquire” came into being in the US after people like Lincoln stopped “reading for the law,” and law schools and bar associations came into being. Of course Mr. Heurlin could have traced his lineage back to the British upper classes or the pompous and use that as an excuse. Unfortunately he wasn’t quick enough.

      One can represent oneself as a civilian (called a “pro se” representation) but can’t if he or she has been a bona fide attorney and and has practiced as such. He’s screwed and stupid and should lose his license.

      Just feel sorry for ol’ Jumbo… all he wanted was to be a regular elephant…

      • Actually, lawyers have been called doctors since the earliest European Universities opened because the first degree offered (the only one, actually) was law. English and American lawyers aren’t normally called doctor because until recently, a university degree wasn’t required (they did apprenticeships). Ph.D.’s are called doctors because they are (Doctorate of Philosophy, the degree that came along once universities started offering things other than law). Ph.D.’s often literally are doctors, doctor means teacher. Physicians are called doctors because it is a prestigious title. M.D. degrees are considered undergraduate degrees in places like England. The D.D.S. degree is considered to be an undergraduate degree even in the U.S., but holders usually call themselves doctor..

        • My maternal grandfather (1850-1930) did the apprentice route. He never went to college. He “read the law” until he felt ready to take the state bar exam — passed it first time out. My father (1897-1950) never went to college, but got admitted to law school on sheer brilliance. In those days he got a LL.B — Bachelor of Laws — he did okay, was elected his state’s Attorney General. I don’t know when this “JD” business got started.

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