Friday, September 9, 2022
An Illinois Hearing Board recommends that an attorney's in court conduct merits a reprimand.
During a bench trial of a discrimination matter, the following exchange
MR. THOLLANDER: Your Honor, I’m objecting to the Court. I want to make a record as to the issue of the offer. Mr. Campasano’s complaint sought among other things enjoining the sale and having the property sold to him, and the discussions and offer around the sale all pertained to settlement or partial settlement of this case.
COURT: Ask another question, Mr. Besetzny. Mr. Thollander, if you make one more comment under your breath --
MR. THOLLANDER: I said gadzooks.
COURT: Mr. Thollander, if you make one more comment that’s offensive to this Court, I will hold you in contempt of court.
MR. THOLLANDER: Gadzooks is offensive to the Court?
COURT: You are now in contempt of court. I’m fining you $1,000. Ask another question, Mr. Besetzny.
After further questions, the judge upped the ante to $3,000 and called it a day.
When the trial resumed, Judge Demacopolous advised Respondent that the contempt order stood, but that the $3,000 sanction was vacated and a full sanction hearing would occur at the conclusion of the trial.
When the dust settled
In a written opinion and order issued on August 28, 2018, the judge held Respondent in direct criminal contempt of court, finding that he “[r]efused to comply with Court orders; [c]ontinually muttered under his breath throughout the trial; interrupted the Court [by] yelling, ‘Gadzooks!’ after the Court ruled; and [b]ehaved in other rude, hostile, and unbecoming manners to the Court.” (Adm. Ex. 10 at 1-2.) The judge further found that Respondent’s behavior “impeded and interrupted [the] Court’s proceedings, lessened the dignity of the Court, and tended to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.” The judge ruled that Respondent was in direct criminal contempt of court by willful and contemptuous conduct, and fined him $1,000. (Id. at 2.)
The contempt was affirmed on appeal.
Respondent, the judge and opposing counsel testified in the bar hearing.
Judge Demacopolous testified that, while she did not know what “gadzooks” meant, she considered it offensive, and believed it was “a comment or critique or an attempt to in some way undermine the Court’s ruling.” (Tr. 137-38.) She took it as if Respondent “was trying to disrupt the administration of justice,” because she was trying to get to the merits of the case and have Mr. Besetzny ask another question, and Respondent continued to interrupt and challenge her ruling.
...Respondent testified that, when he asked if “gadzooks” was offensive to the Court, it was not a snide, demeaning, or flippant comment; he asked because he was “baffled.” (Tr. 282.) He testified that he said “gadzooks” out of frustration, did not believe the word was offensive, and did not mean to offend the Court
we find that the Administrator proved that Respondent violated Rule 8.4(d) but failed to prove that he violated Rules 3.5(d), 4.4(a), or 8.4(b).
...By no means do we excuse Respondent’s misconduct, but neither do we find it particularly serious, given that it occurred on one afternoon of a four-day trial, caused no harm to the parties, and caused only a short delay in the proceedings. We also find that Respondent’s misconduct is mitigated by the facts that he fully cooperated in his disciplinary proceeding, has an unblemished record in 33 years of practice, and presented impressive character testimony.
The Administrator asks this panel to find, in aggravation, that Respondent has not expressed remorse for his conduct before Judge Demacopolous or even acknowledged that he engaged in wrongful conduct. It is true that, during his hearing, Respondent testified about his view of the events that unfolded in Judge Demacopolous’ courtroom, disputed Judge Demacopolous’ characterization of the events, and denied that his actions constituted misconduct. However, a respondent is entitled to defend himself, and the fact that he does so is not aggravating and does not mean he lacks remorse.
Poppycock! (Mike Frisch)