Hello and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Bar Complaint that was filed against an Illinois assistant public defender who allegedly failed to communicate plea offers to clients, improperly disclosed confidential information, and engaged in disruptive conduct in the courtroom, including yelling and using a curse word (and then denying that she used it). The case is In the Matter of: Therese Cesar Garza, No. 6180720, Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission No. 2012PR00035 (April 25, 2012).
The Bar Complaint alleges that the lawyer engaged in courtroom conduct that was disruptive to the tribunal, including the lawyer’s alleged use of the “s—“ word and then denying that she used it. According to the Bar Complaint, the following exchange occurred:
“MS. CESAR: Oh sh-t.
THE COURT: What did you say, Ms. Cesar?
MS. CESAR: Oh shoot, I said. Oh shoot. I’m sorry I didn’t talk to her, Judge. I’m just – – it’s my fault. I’m running around, talking to people.
THE COURT: I don’t think that’s what you said.
MS. CESAR: Whatever. I know the word you think I said. My mother never let me say that, and I’ll tell you why. But I said shoot, darn it.”
The Bar Complaint also alleges that the lawyer yelled in the judge’s courtroom and disrupted the proceedings. According to the Complaint, the following exchange occurred:
MS. CESAR: If I could correct the record, I told the Court at about 11:00 o’clock I had trouble getting people.
And when I finally got through, I talked to Mr. Word. He said he was going to try to come.
“THE COURT: Excuse me. I did not lose my hearing.
MS. CESAR: I did not say he was on the way. He indicated that he would come.
THE COURT: Let me just indicate again, you are yelling on the record. This happens all the time when you don’t get your way.
Because you lose something doesn’t mean you have to start yelling at me. I haven’t gotten deaf over the course of the time
I have listened to your argument. I just don’t agree with you. And it’s okay that people don’t agree.”
The lawyer is also accused of failing to communicate plea offers and disclosing confidential information about her clients to the judge, including one incident wherein the lawyer is alleged to have told the judge, before a plea was entered, that the client stole baby formula to feed his 8-month-old child.
Bottom line: I’m not sure if it is something in the Illinois water (or perhaps the lawyers in the Public Defender’s offices in Illinois are overworked), but this is the second Illinois PD who has been accused of somewhat unusual behavior and violations of the Illinois Bar Rules in the last few years. In my February 29, 2012 Ethics Alert, I discussed the case of In re: Disciplinary Proceedings against Kristine Peshek, Case No. No. 2011AP909-D wherein an Illinois lawyer was suspended for 60 days in both Illinois and Wisconsin for disparaging judges, violating client confidences on her blog, and failing to correct her client’s false sworn statements in a court proceeding (and blogging about it). One of her mitigating factors was that she was overworked.
Be careful out there!
As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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