Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Suspension for insulting the judge

It is unfortunately no secret that not all judges are competent or fair. It is not uncommon to read opinions disciplining judges or allegations of corruption. Yet, what is the best way to deal with the situation? How should a lawyer appearing before a court address a problem with the judge? That is a very difficult question and not an easy decision to make. Sometimes an attorney must react even if it means risking being found in contempt. But there are obvious risks involved. Tread carefully.

Here is an example. The Legal Profession Blog is reporting today that the Illinois Review Board has recommended a six-month suspension for an attorney who made disparaging remarks to a judge. The attorney apparently was angry about the judge's decision to summarily place a fourteen year old child with someone he (the lawyer) claimed to be an addict. In a letter to the judge, the lawyer stated that "As an officer of the court, I must bluntly state that you appear to have serious mental issues involving extreme narcissism and illusions of grandiosity which effectively interferes with your ability to act as a Judge. I am certain this is the opinion of many other lawyers who are acquainted with you. I am aware of your tendency toward self-promotion and your blatant insinuation that you somehow have a superior ability to ascertain peremptorily and without the presentation of appropriate evidence the best interests of children. Do you in any manner accept the reality of the jeopardy in which you placed this child? Is it possible that you could apologize to my client, who has had custody of this child since birth and suffered weeks of sleepless nights wondering whether her child would return safely from her substance addicted and irresponsible former husband? Are you capable of self-examination, or do you simply react negatively and defensively to any suggestion that you are incapable of error?"

Although portions of the letter are improper, I am not sure I would have imposed a six month suspension for it. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. The lawyer reportedly also insulted administrative law judge in a different case.

The opinion is available here.

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