Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent report and recommendation of the Illinois disciplinary board of a 4 month suspension for prosecutor who pulled a gun on a process server who was attempting to serve him with a summons in a federal lawsuit. The case is In the Matter of Allen W. James, No. 6239218, Commission No. 08 SH 105 (November 15, 2012). The Board’s Report and Recommendation is at https://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=10635.
According to the report and recommendation, a licensed private detective, Dees, had been attempting to serve the lawyer, a criminal prosecutor, with a summons and complaint in a federal lawsuit in which the lawyer was named as a defendant since he was the State’s Attorney of Union County, Illinois. The process server attempted to serve the lawyer at both his office and his home; however, he was unsuccessful since the lawyer was apparently intentionally avoiding service of the summons.
On the morning of March 19, 2008, the process server approached the lawyer in the parking lot of the Union County Courthouse in an attempt to serve the summons and complaint. According to the board’s report and recommendation, the process server identified himself, displayed a badge, stated he was a process server, and called the lawyer by his name. The lawyer then pulled a loaded .380 semi-automatic handgun from his pocket and pointed it at the investigator. The process server identified himself again and the lawyer continued to point the gun at him. The process server then dropped the summons at the lawyer’s feet and left and no shots were fired. The investigator reported the incident to the Union County Sheriff’s Department. The lawyer was subsequently charged with aggravated assault and found guilty of that crime.
The lawyer was then charged with violation of Illinois disciplinary rules for misconduct related to criminal charges. A hearing board conducted proceedings and issued a report stated, in part: “(i)n summary, we find that the Respondent committed the criminal offense of Aggravated Assault in the parking lot of the Union County Courthouse on March 19, 2008, in that the Respondent, without justification, knowingly drew and pointed a loaded handgun, a deadly weapon, at Christopher Dees, a process server, thereby placing Mr. Dees in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery. We also find that, before the Respondent drew his handgun, he knew or had a strong suspicion that Mr. Dees was a process server who was attempting to serve summons on the Respondent, as the Respondent knew Dees had attempted to do on the previous day at both the Respondent’s office and home. We further find that, at the time the Respondent drew his handgun, the Respondent did not believe that Mr. Dees posed a threat to his safety, and the Respondent did not draw his handgun for the purpose of protecting himself from physical harm.”
The hearing board concluded that the lawyer engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration justice and recommended a 6 month suspension. After reviewing the hearing board’s findings and considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the disciplinary board recommended a 4 month suspension. The Illinois Supreme Court will consider the matter and issue a final disciplinary opinion.
Bottom line: Don’t pull a gun and commit an assault on a process server (who is just doing his or her job)…particularly if you are a criminal prosecutor charged with upholding the law…
Be careful out there!