October 15, 2008
The Illinois Hearing Board imposed a public censure on an attorney who had filed an inappropriate pleading in a litigated matter. The board described the misconduct as follows:
Harrison represented Pedro Rey in a criminal matter. Rey’s case was assigned to Cook County Circuit Court Judge John J. Fleming. When Harrison filed his appearance, he also filed a motion to continue the trial date of November 3, 2003. Judge Fleming continued the trial until January 12, 2004, and informed Harrison that he would not grant another continuance because the case was a year old.
On January 24, 2004, Harrison filed another motion to continue the trial. He did not appear personally to present the motion. An investigator hired by Harrison presented it and told the court that Harrison was involved in another trial. In relevant part, Harrison asserted in the motion that the proceedings in his client’s case were a "criminal court fiasco" and "may also necessitate criminal charges for obstruction of justice, malicious prosecution, and/or prosecutorial misconduct as well as conspiracy to do same by the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division, located at 2600 S. California, in Chicago, IL, in room 102." Harrison signed the motion "Indignantly Submitted."
Harrison admitted that at the time he filed his motions for continuance he had no information as to whether the statements about the court were true or false. Harrison went on to explain that the statements were not direct allegations, but "allusions" to a "possible need to pursue this or that avenue of criminal proceedings.
When Harrison next appeared before Judge Fleming on January 21, 2004, he filed an amended motion to continue the trial date. The amended motion contained the allegations regarding obstruction of justice, malicious prosecution and prosecutorial misconduct. Harrison told Judge Fleming that he could not be ready for trial until September 2004. Judge Fleming set the trial for March 2004. According to Judge Fleming, Harrison then began raising his voice, raised the motion over his head and said loudly that he would "jam these pleadings down the throat of the record as much as I feel I need to."
Harrison testified that he is a demonstrative person and has a loud voice. He denied that he yelled and posited that his behavior was due to his lack of experience in the criminal court and his perception that his client was being treated unfairly.
The judge held the lawyer in contempt and had the sheriff remove him from the courtroom.
The board found that the lawyer had not been prejudiced by the arguments of the Administrator and that the comments by the lawyer were not protected by the First Amendment. (Mike Frisch)
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