Monday, November 20, 2023

Courthouse Conduct Draws Proposed Suspension

An Illinois Hearing Board recommends a six-month suspension with fitness

Respondent engaged in misconduct when he harassed Will County Courthouse staff. Specifically, Respondent made inappropriate comments towards female employees and asked them out on dates, patted a law library employee’s head and placed his hand in her hair, and commented that he would “get with” a judicial extern if he were younger. Courthouse administrators warned Respondent about his behavior, but he continued to engage in the same behavior. His continued harassment of courthouse employees resulted in courthouse staff placing restrictions on his movement within the courthouse. By the foregoing conduct, Respondent violated Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(d).

Respondent presented no evidence of mitigation. In aggravation, in 2022, he consented to a 60-day suspension for, among other things, communicating with a defendant in a criminal case without the consent of the defendant’s lawyer and seeking to represent that defendant, even though the representation would be directly adverse to and materially limited by his responsibilities to another client in a related case. See In re Lewin, M.R. 031282, 2021PR00074 (September 21, 2022). While the prior misconduct was different from the current misconduct, Respondent engaged in the current misconduct while the prior disciplinary matter was pending, during a time when he should have had a heightened awareness of his ethical obligations.

In addition, Respondent was an experienced practitioner at the time of his misconduct; he engaged in a pattern of misconduct that spanned more than two years and involved multiple individuals, including a law student; and he continued to engage in his unacceptable behavior even after the Will County Circuit Court staff ordered him to stop his harassing behavior and placed restrictions on his ability to be in the courthouse. Finally, at his hearing, Respondent showed no recognition of the wrongfulness of his conduct nor any sincere remorse for it, and in fact, spent much of his testimony minimizing his conduct and rationalizing why his behavior should not have been deemed offensive. He repeatedly stated that he did not understand what was wrong with his conduct, which does not instill us with confidence that he will refrain from engaging in similar misconduct in the future.,

Recommendation

Given Respondent’s misconduct, the serious aggravating factors present, the absence of any mitigating evidence, and relevant case law, we recommend that Respondent be suspended for six months and until further order of the Court.

Charging document high (low) lights

Mr. Holland and Mr. Zito asked Respondent if he had ever told female opposing counsel something similar to, “Will I get a better deal for my client if I argue or flirt with you?” Respondent replied that he sometimes asked female opposing counsel, “Will begging or flirting be more effective?”

During the April 26, 2021, meeting, Respondent was asked if he had ever told female staff or attorneys at the Will County Courthouse, “Nice dress, but it would look better on my floor.” Respondent replied, “I’ve told them they have a nice dress, but it would better if it was off.”

To a court employee

Respondent became agitated and asked R.B. if he “has ever heard the phrase ‘eat shit and die.’” In response, R.B. again explained to Respondent that he would have to fill out additional forms and file them electronically. Respondent then stated to R.B., “Eat shit and die,” and walked away.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2023/11/courthouse-conduct-draws-proposed-suspension.html

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