Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Have A Nice Day

The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney failed to cooperate with a bar investigation, engaged in unauthorized practice after suspension for non-compliance with registration requirements and engaged in misconduct toward an opposing party. The alleged misconduct took place after a court proceeding had been continued. The complaint states that the attorney spoke to the opposing party as follows:

As both Respondent and [the opposing party] left the courtroom, Respondent stated the following to [her]: "have a nice day, you piece of shit."

The failure to cooperate charges relate to the ensuing bar matter. According to the complaint:

On the afternoon of April 13, 2010, one day before the Inquiry Board meeting, Respondent sent correspondence to the Administrator which stated, in part, "I sincerely apologize for not responding sooner to your inquiry. There is no excuse for letting the matter get to this point. I suppose that my inaction was, in part, motivated by a resentment that I would have to answer such petty complaints." At no time in his letter, did Respondent address his failure to appear pursuant to subpoena on March 4, 2010, nor did he request the opportunity to appear before the Inquiry Board pursuant to Commission Rule 55.

As of April 14, 2010, the date the Inquiry Board voted that a complaint be filed in this matter, Respondent had not appeared in compliance with the Administrator's subpoena. Respondent's appearance was never waived or excused.

The "piece of s**t" comment is charged as a violation of two ethics rules: (1) using means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, humiliate or burden a third person, and (2) conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. I predict that the Administrator will lose on  both counts.

The comment displayed a lack of civility and professionalism, but anyone who cannot handle being called the "s" word cannot function in modern society. I doubt that a finder of fact will find this conduct sufficiently humiliating or burdensome to violate the rule. And prejudicial to the administration of justice? It was not said in open court on the record before a judge.

We sometimes argue over the line where conduct stops being uncivil and starts being unethical. If this conduct is deemed to cross that line, Lord help us all (or me, at least). (Mike Frisch)

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Comments

"Modern society" where exactly? I'm aware that in Illinois a gunfight in the street is an accepted way of settling such slights. But do they also brawl in the hall outside the courtroom? If an attorney can't keep his mouth shut until he gets out of the courthouse, he doesn't deserve a license. Jesus.

Posted by: Ron | Sep 16, 2010 9:57:17 AM

Ron:

It's interesting that you would argue that the s*** word in the halls of a courthouse in the heat of the moment is a big problem, but using the Lord's (ok, my Lord's, maybe not your Lord's) name in vain on a blog post is ok. In case you didn't get the memo, that's way more offensive to some than a random Anglo-Saxon scatological term.

If you can't be respectful to someone else's deeply held beliefs in a public forum, maybe you don't deserve a license.

Or, more likely, perhaps we should all lighten up a little.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 16, 2010 11:01:08 PM

I am not so sure that I agree. If the comment had been made to opposing cousel, maybe ...., but the comment was made by a male attorney to a female opposing party (a grandmother) who had appeared in court without a lawyer. Also the attorney was representing a man who had violated the terms of a protective order to stay away from the woman and her grandson. The attorney had no business talking to her without counsel present to begin with, let alone to be rude (and possibly intimidating) in that manner. I don't think it is a stretch to say that under the circumstances, the conduct is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Posted by: Alberto Bernabe | Sep 19, 2010 12:33:03 PM

Alberto's point (which I had overlooked) is well taken.

Posted by: Mike Frisch | Sep 20, 2010 5:11:55 AM

I strenuously disagree with the proposition that 'anyone who cannot handle being called the "s" word cannot function in modern society'. It is telling that in extolling the normalcy and comparative non-offensiveness of the word 'shit' you chose not to write it. Whether or not it warrants discipline, this conduct calls for condemnation.

Posted by: Stephen Warne | Oct 9, 2010 9:20:31 PM

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