A local businessman who has been sanctioned again and again over the past two decades for misrepresenting his legal credentials was sentenced yesterday to a two-year prison term for failing to heed earlier court orders.
It was the maximum the judge could impose and the stiffest penalty yet in the long saga of Simon Banks, 65, who kept advertising himself as a former administrative law judge, even though he had never even passed the bar.
But for some former clients, the sentence handed down in D.C. Superior Court was nothing but a bump in the road for the man who they say cost them thousands of dollars because of his smooth talk and self-aggrandizing style.
"They can't stop him," said Lovie L. Robinson, who first crossed paths with Banks in 1984, when she was fired from a federal government job and asked Banks to represent her in a wrongful termination action. "This man doesn't believe he's doing anything wrong."
Banks, a graduate of Howard University Law School, was a hearing examiner in assorted local and federal tribunals in the 1970s. Years later, courts found that he misled people by marketing himself as an administrative law judge, when he had never been a judge.
In the late 1990s, Superior Court judges had him jailed twice for not heeding their instructions to stop misrepresenting his experience.
Banks, of Falls Church, most recently had been operating as the Judge Banks Group in Alexandria.
Heartened as former clients were by the lecture delivered by Judge Noel A. Kramer as she sentenced Banks, they said they feared it would not change him.
"He's going to come out and do it again," said a 32-year-old woman who hired Banks in January to represent her before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She spoke on the condition that she not be named, saying her complaint is pending.
The judge also expressed exasperation with Banks's conduct.
"It hasn't stopped, and it won't stop," Kramer said, before enumerating his sentence, which breaks down to six months on each of four counts of contempt of court.
She also fined him $4,000.
Kramer found Banks guilty of the charges in April and ordered him locked up immediately.
In urging a significant sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Griffith, one of the prosecutors on the case, called Banks a "true recidivist" who uses his clients as his personal "piggybank."
Banks stood before the court yesterday and tried to revisit his conviction, saying he misunderstood the scope of a 1995 injunction that ordered him to stop using terms such as administrative law judge.
He argued that his record of success in representing clients, many of them aggrieved government employees, was being overlooked.
"The public," he said, "has been protected by my advocacy."