It is probably never a great idea to call your presiding judge a “scourge on the profession” or to refer to opposing counsel as a “susceptible boy-lawyer.”
But an Illinois attorney must not have gotten the memo. As a result he’s been slapped with a one year suspension for ethical misconduct.
His big problem appears to be a big mouth. Among the statements – made in pleadings, motions and open court – that reportedly landed him in hot water:
- The proceedings were a “sham” and the judge was “prejudicial.”
- The judge and opposing counsel were “predators.”
- The judge might be at a “low point” in his career and in need of “assistance with stressors in his life from the state Lawyers Assistance Program.”
- And this: “Such back-alley justice makes a mockery of the legal procedures that gives parties notice of hearing and a right to be heard, procedures traditionally sets our legal system form (sic) that of oppressive dictatorial (sic) regimes.”
But here’s the worst part of this fiasco: it all happened while the lawyer was representing himself. In a collection matter. In small claims court. In a case that’s gone on for eight years.
That’s right, this sham of a mockery dates back to when George Bush was still president and flip phones were popular. And Breaking Bad had yet to debut.
And still the wheels of Illinois disciplinary justice grind on.
The Case Within the Case
Counsel’s problems apparently began when he failed to show for a hearing, according to the Report and Recommendation of the Illinois Disciplinary Review Board. That prompted the judge to strike all of his outstanding motions.
Needless to say, this did not go down well. Counsel sought to have a new judge brought in, but accused the new judge of serving the “corrupt interest of covering up” the first judge’s abuse and misconduct. So he filed a petition “to substitute the entire Sixth Circuit judiciary, alleging that all of the judges in the circuit had colluded against him following a previous ordinance violation.”
And on and on it goes. The record is filled with rancorous bantering over the disclosure of Social Security numbers and the “purposeful manipulation of the record.”
Reading the Report is like watching a car wreck happen in slow motion:
“[A]lthough attorneys are permitted to engage in fair criticism of a judge’s rulings, they are not permitted to engage in unjust criticism, insulting and scurrilous attacks, or other offensive conduct toward members of the judiciary,” the Board said. “Such conduct by attorneys, who are officers of the court, tends to bring the courts and the legal profession into disrepute and to destroy public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary….
“Respondent’s misconduct is serious. His actions unnecessarily prolonged the litigation and demonstrated a profound lack of respect for the judicial system.”
A Fool For A Client
In conclusion, the Board found respondent had:
- Engaged in misconduct hurtful to the judges’ reputations and disruptive to the court system;
- Made false statements of fact to a tribunal;
- Made statements that served no substantial, legitimate purpose and were intended only to harass, demean and insult the judges and opposing counsel;
- Engaged in a course of misconduct over a long period of time as documented in at least seven different court pleadings.
The Board recommended a one year suspension, with six months stayed, plus probation.
All of which proves the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, who famously said: “Every man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information:
- In re Brian Keith Sides, Commission No. 2011PR00144 (March 31, 2014) http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=11301.
- Lawyers Ethics Alert Blog Joseph Corsmeier http://jcorsmeier.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/illinois-review-board-recommends-one-year-suspension-for-a-lawyers-misconduct-while-representing-himself-in-a-small-claims-collection-matter/