Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Lawyer Suspended for Angry Emails and Unhinged Attack

Here’s some free risk management advice: it’s never a good sign when a federal judge blasts you for inappropriate diatribes, slaps you with $50,000 in sanctions, and orders you to attend anger management classes.

Just ask the Chicago lawyer who was on the receiving end of an indefinite suspension based in part on these things.

In June, the Illinois Supreme Court took the unusual step of suspending the attorney “immediately and until further order of the court” even before the ethics charges had been finally resolved.

Read about the case in the ABA Journal. Other press accounts are here, here, and here.

The trouble began in 2018, when an ethics complaint was brought against the lawyer for his behavior in a case involving used car dealers and odometers. The presiding judge in that matter cited him for sending vitriolic emails, making “false claims and inappropriate diatribes” in pleadings, and calling opposing counsel an embarrassment to the profession, according to the ABA Journal.

In a second case, the lawyer allegedly said the adverse party was “very mentally sick” and “pathologically obsessed,” and in a third matter he continued filing pleadings even though his client had fired him, the Journal reported.

N.C. State Bar Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;
(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer;
(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;
(e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official;
(f) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law; or
(g) intentionally prejudice or damage his or her client during the course of the professional relationship, except as may be required by Rule 3.3.

Comment [5]: Threats, bullying, harassment, and other conduct serving no substantial purpose other than to intimidate, humiliate, or embarrass anyone associated with the judicial process including judges, opposing counsel, litigants, witnesses, or court personnel violate the prohibition on conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. When directed to opposing counsel, such conduct tends to impede opposing counsel’s ability to represent his or her client effectively. Comments “by one lawyer tending to disparage the personality or performance of another...tend to reduce public trust and confidence in our courts and, in more extreme cases, directly interfere with the truth-finding function by distracting judges and juries from the serious business at hand.”

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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