October 27, 2009
Illinois Bar Charges Abusive Behavior
The Illinois Administrator has filed a disciplinary complaint alleging a series of incidents involving the accused attorney. One set of alleged facts:
On February 10, 2008, while in a public park in Morristown, New Jersey, Respondent, who is Caucasian, approached three African-American women and shouted racial epithets at them. Respondent's conduct was witnessed by others in the area, who alerted police.
On February 10, 2008, shortly after the incident described...above, Morristown police officer Scott Weaver ("Officer Weaver") approached Respondent in the same park and began to question him. In response, Respondent told Officer Weaver, "I don't talk to fucking Jews" and began to walk away.
Officer Weaver instructed Respondent to return, and Respondent stated, "I don't talk to you fucking people," clenched his hands into fists and ran toward Officer Weaver. Officer Weaver responded by discharging pepper spray toward Respondent. Respondent then threw a cup of hot coffee at Officer Weaver, struck him, grasped his neck and attempted to throw him to the ground. When Officer Weaver broke Respondent's hold, Respondent ran away.
Shortly after the incidents described...above, other police officers arrived at the park to assist officer Weaver and to arrest Respondent. Respondent attempted to strike them and to escape from their custody. When questioned by the other officers, Respondent stated of Officer Weaver, "I don't have to listen to that bald-headed Jew."
On February 10, 2008, after the events described in paragraphs one through four, above, the officers handcuffed Respondent, placed him under arrest and took him to their station. After arriving at the station, Respondent referred to an Asian police officer he saw there as "Detective Chinaman."
On April 8, 2008, a grand jury of the Superior Court of New Jersey issued an indictment charging Respondent with the criminal offense of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer in violation of New Jersey Statutes 2C:12-1b(5)(a) and resisting arrest in violation of New Jersey Statutes 2C:29-2a(3)(a). On that date, the Morris County Prosecutor's Office filed the indictment in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Morris County. The clerk of the court docketed the matter as The State of New Jersey v. Deron B. Elliott and assigned it case number 08-0337...
Between February 10, 2008 and September 15, 2008, Respondent remained incarcerated in the Morris County jail and was represented in case number 08-0337 by a public defender.
On September 15, 2008, Respondent entered a plea of guilty in case number 08-0337 to a reduced charge of Simple Assault, and the Hon. Thomas Manahan, a judge of the Superior Court, entered a judgment of conviction and sentenced Respondent to the 219 days he had already served in the county jail.
A second charge involves the lawyer's dealings with bar employees over the release to him of his MBE scores:
...Respondent telephoned the office of Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar ("the Board"), spoke with the Board's Deputy Director of Administration, Larie Leskera ("Leskera"), and asked Leskera to reveal his February 1996 Multistate Bar Examination ("MBE") score.
...during the telephone conference...Leskera refused to reveal Respondent's MBE score and informed him that the Board's policy was to maintain the confidentiality of such scores. Respondent argued that he was entitled to his score because his ancestors had arrived on the Mayflower. Respondent then told Leskera that he was living in Vermont and asked whether she would agree to inform Vermont bar officials of his MBE score. Leskera asked Respondent to submit a written request for the information he wanted, and Respondent terminated the call.
...Respondent telephoned the office of the Board, spoke with receptionist Linda Giger ("Giger"), and again asked for his MBE scores. Giger informed Respondent that the Board could not reveal his MBE score to him. In response to Giger's statement, Respondent stated "Don't give me that shit. Do you know who you're talking to?" Respondent then stated that the Board was "going to get your fucking asses sued off," that the Board was "a bunch of fucking criminals," and told Giger to "just do what you're fucking told to do." Respondent also told Giger that he was descended from the pilgrims and told her, "you don't want to mess with a pilgrim."
...Leskera reported Respondent's abusive and threatening conduct to the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The Administrator initiated an investigation and docketed the matter as Investigation No. 09 CI 1396.
...counsel for the Administrator sent Respondent a letter asking him to provide the material facts relating to his interaction with the Board. Respondent received the letter shortly after it was sent.
...Respondent telephoned the office of the Administrator, spoke with secretary Vicki J. Andrzejewski ("Andrzejewski") and began to criticize the Leskera and the Administrator of the ARDC. Andrzejewski asked Respondent whether he required additional time to respond to counsel's April 13, 2009 letter. In response, Respondent stated, "I plan on responding, sweetie." When Andrzejewski asked Respondent to converse in a more professional manner, he responded, "Go fuck yourself." Andrzejewski then terminated the call.
The lawyer is charged with, among other things, the following:
...conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice including adverse discriminatory treatment of others based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5).
An issue that might emerge involves the scope of the Illinois rules relating to discriminatory behavior. Rule 8.4 (9)(A) makes the violation of a Federal, State or local statute that prohibits discrimination a disciplinary offense. There appears to be no such allegation or finding. To what extent did the alleged behavior prejudice the administration of justice? In the park? To the police? To the Admissions office? To the Administrator? Was any of the conduct protected by the First Amendment?
Of course, the conviction conclusively establishes the underlying facts of the assault for purposes of bar discipline.
This should be an interesting hearing. (Mike Frisch)
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The respondent is a nut and hence dangerous to clients. But his offense did not prejudice the administration of justice. Shouting racial, national and religious epithets at persons is reprehensible but, in itself, has nothing to do with the suitability of the person to practice law.
Posted by: Dennis Tuchler | Oct 29, 2009 8:35:36 AM