Thursday, December 2, 2021

The F*cking Bullsh*t Objection

An interesting complaint recently filed by the Illinois Administrator alleges misconduct by the defense attorney in a federal criminal trial before Judge Amy St. Eve and in a state homicide prosecution.

The prosecutor had raised the issue of defense counsel's facial expressions and muttered comments including, allegedly saying "That's a lie" during the testimony of a witness.

The judge admonished the attorney

Please. Ms. Motta, you are crossing a line right now. I don’t think you want to cross that line. So let’s be professional. I give you the opportunity to be heard. The government doesn’t like some of my rulings. You don’t like some of my rulings. Welcome to litigation. But let’s be professional in the courtroom.

And I’ll tell you right now for about the 10th time, the jury doesn’t like that kind of unprofessional conduct. So take a deep breath and get yourself under control. We’ll pick up in 10 minutes.

But the next day

THE COURT: Overruled. The answer may stand.
RESPONDENT: Fucking bullshit

After a recess, a further admonishment

THE COURT: Before we pick back up with the witness, Ms. Motta, I’m not quite sure what will stop your unprofessional behavior. When I overruled one of your last objections, you sat down, you rolled your eyes and you said, that’s fucking bullshit. It was picked up on the audio. I listened to it to make sure that’s what you really said. That is so unacceptable and so unprofessional, and I will deal with you after this trial. But I’m just putting you on notice, once again, I would control yourself and control your unprofessional reactions. That is completely unacceptable. Bring the witness back in.

RESPONDENT: I don’t know how sensitive the microphones are, so I apologize. However, it is important to explain I made our evidentiary objections –

THE COURT: Whatever the reason you disagree, to say that’s F’ing bullshit in a federal court because you disagree with the judge’s ruling in front of the jury is completely unacceptable.

Allegation of improper cell phone use contrary to court rules

Respondent admitted taking cell phone photographs in Judge St. Eve’s courtroom, during closing argument and indignantly asked Judge St. Eve why she questioned the Respondent’s integrity.


On January 26, 2017, after the conclusion of the trial, Respondent was escorted by the United States Marshalls to the United States Marshall  lock up where Respondent received citation number 6509981 for failing to comply with signs and directions posted outside courtroom 1241, 219 S. Dearborn in violation of LR 83.1(c) which prohibits the taking of photographs in the court environs.

That led to a criminal charge, a diversion and the conduct led to disciplinary sanctions by the federal court

On May 8, 2017, the Executive Committee ordered that Respondent be suspended from the General Bar of the Court for 90 days, after which she will be automatically be reinstated, and suspended from the Trial Bar for one year after which time Respondent may petition the Executive Committee for reinstatement to the Trial Bar. The Executive Committee found the misconduct committed during the Redwood trial showed that Respondent unable to serve as lead counsel during a trial for at least the one-year period.

In an unrelated state case

In the nunc pro tunc order, identified in paragraph 49, supra, the District Court found that Respondent’s public disclosure of DNA results in the Blanchard homicide was a direct violation of the Court’s protective order, identified in paragraph 36, supra, as the Respondent obtained the Blanchard suspect’s DNA evidence from discovery received by Respondent in the Garcia case, which was subject to the protective order. Respondent then provided the DNA evidence to a defense expert for analysis, in violation of the protective order. Finally, Respondent’s disclosure to the news media of the Blanchard suspect’s DNA expert analysis was a clear violation of the protective order.

The Court found that Respondent violated § 3-503.6 when she made statements to multiple local news media within five business days of the scheduled beginning of Garcia’s trial, and her statements were in no way limited, as Respondent told outlets the DNA evidence “completely exonerated” Garcia.

AP News reported on sanctions ordered in Nebraska in the Garcia matter.

Last month, the high court issued a public reprimand for Alison Motta, one of Garcia’s Chicago lawyers, for inflammatory comments she made on the eve of Garcia’s scheduled trial. She told reporters that DNA tests had exonerated Garcia of the March 2008 killings of Shirlee Sherman and Thomas Hunter.

Motta’s declaration caused a judge to delay Garcia’s trial — for the third time. Following Motta’s declaration, two local attorneys withdrew from the Garcia case, stripping Motta and her Chicago defense team of their guest pass to practice law in Nebraska.

A jury convicted Garcia in October 2016. Garcia is awaiting a March hearing to determine whether he gets the death penalty for killing Sherman, 57, Hunter, 11, and Dr. Roger Brumback and Mary Brumback, both 65. Garcia did so as revenge for his 2001 firing from the Creighton University Medical Center pathology department.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


The federal judge sounded very understanding. It might have helped if the judge ordered the attorney to write a paper about contempt of court committed in the presence of the court. Ms. Motta could have started with a couple cases. In construing and applying the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly has emphasized and applied a bright-line test. On one side of the line (the one Ms. Motta crossed) is “the power of courts to protect themselves from disturbances and disorder in the court room” or very near it. Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, 266 (1941). Regarding “whether [any] conduct” constitutes “misbehavior” that is “so near” the “presence of the court as to obstruct the administration of justice,” words such as “so near thereto” must “be construed as geographical terms.” Nye v. United States, 313 U.S. 33, 48 (1941) (cleaned up). Such expressions pertain exclusively to “physical proximity” to (literally “near” or in the “presence” of) the persons constituting the “court,” i.e., the judge(s) or “jury” while they perform the functions of the court. Id. at 48-49. Ms. Motta’s First Amendment freedoms include criticizing judges and their decisions, but not in the time, manner or place she chose.

Posted by: Jack Jordan | Dec 3, 2021 4:57:51 AM

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