Sunday, August 20, 2017

Drunk While Driving And in Court Alleged In Illinois Bar Case

A complaint recently filed by the Illinois Administrator

In the afternoon of May 5, 2013, Respondent consumed alcoholic beverages at the Carriage Greens Country Club in Darien, Illinois.

At approximately 6:00 pm on May 5, 2013, Respondent left the Carriage Greens Country Club and drove his vehicle approximately 3.6 miles to the Five Star Pantry in Willowbrook, Illinois.

Shortly after 6:00 pm on May 5, 2013, Respondent parked his vehicle and entered the Five Star Pantry. Respondent attempted to use the restroom at the store but was told that the restroom was out of order. Respondent then urinated on himself and onto the floor of the store. He then left the store.

After leaving the Five Star Pantry, Respondent went back to his vehicle. Shortly thereafter, Sandra Williams, observed Respondent sitting in the driver's seat of his vehicle. Respondent had dropped his car keys outside of his vehicle and was looking for them. Ms. Williams picked up the keys and called 911 with her cellphone. Ms. Williams held Respondent's car keys until police officers arrived and then she gave the keys to the officers.

After the 911 call from the Five Star Pantry on May 5, 2013, the Burr Ridge Police and the DuPage County Sheriff were dispatched to the Five Star Pantry. The responding officers smelled alcohol on Respondent's breath and noticed that Respondent had bloodshot and watery eyes, that his speech was extremely slurred and that he was having extreme difficulty keeping his balance. Respondent advised the officers that beginning at approximately 4:00 p.m. that day, he had consumed between "six to eight drinks" at the Carriage Greens Country Club.

The responding officers asked Respondent to perform field sobriety tests. Respondent advised the officers that, "I know I've had too much to drink but I'll take the test." Respondent failed the field sobriety tests administered to him.

The responding officers asked Respondent to submit to a portable breathalyzer test. Respondent agreed and registered a .212 blood-alcohol concentration on the portable breathalyzer test, which is almost three times the legal limit of .08.

A second allegation

 On August 26, 2013, when Respondent posted bond in case number 2013CF1549, a condition of his bond stated that Respondent was not to possess or consume any substance containing alcohol and was to wear a SCRAM ankle device to detect alcohol during the pendency of the case.

On August 6, 2014, Respondent's motion for removal of the SCRAM device was granted in case number 2013CF1549.

On August 29, 2014, at approximately 9 a.m., Respondent appeared pro se in a foreclosure action, in the matter entitled, Wells Fargo Bank NA, v. Robert C. Thomas, et. al., 09 CH 1743 (DuPage County Circuit Court).

During the court appearance on August 29, 2014, the Honorable Robert Gibson and other courtroom personnel smelled alcohol on Respondent. Judge Gibson and other courtroom personnel also observed that Respondent was slurring his words and had bloodshot eyes. Judge Gibson requested that Respondent submit to a breathalyzer test, and Respondent agreed to do so.

On the morning of August 29, 2014, Respondent submitted to testing on a portable breathalyzer. The results of the test indicated that Respondent had a blood-alcohol level of .141, almost twice the legal limit of .08.

On August 29, 2014, after submitting to the breathalyzer test, Respondent again appeared before Judge Gibson on a contempt proceeding entitled, In re Criminal Contempt of Robert C. Thomas, 14CC26 (Circuit Court of DuPage County).

Judge Gibson held Respondent in direct criminal contempt of court in case number 14CC26, for appearing in court under the influence of alcohol and in violation of his bond in case number 2013CF1549. Judge Gibson found that Respondent's conduct impeded the court's proceedings and tended to bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Judge Gibson sentenced Respondent to five days in the DuPage County jail.

The outcome of a matter such as this often depends upon the extent to which the respondent acknowledges and addresses the problems with alcohol.

Illinois is a jurisdiction that accords substantial mitigation to misconduct caused by alcoholism where there is substantial progress in recovery from addiction.

As explained in the seminal case of In re Driscoll

Perhaps in rare cases alcoholism might so change the character of the misconduct or so distort the attorney's state of mind as to provide a complete excuse. Usually, however, alcoholism is at most an extenuating circumstance, a mitigating fact, not an excuse. The attorney's impaired judgment diminishes the responsibility he must bear, but does not eliminate it. Not all alcoholics appropriate the money of their clients; the slide from drink to dishonor may be smooth, but it is neither automatic nor uncontrollable. We can understand it; we cannot excuse it or overlook misconduct as serious as respondent's. Alcoholics need not be treated just like other people; our duty to uphold the standards and reputation of the profession is not incompatible with sympathy and leniency for victims of alcoholism. But their tragedy cannot be used as a license to exploit clients by taking their money.

(Mike Frisch)

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