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Illinois Review Board recommends one year suspension for a lawyer’s misconduct while representing himself in a small claims collection matter

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Illinois Review Board Report and Recommendation which recommended a one year suspension with six months stayed and probation for a lawyer’s misconduct. The case is In re Brian Keith Sides, Commission No. 2011PR00144 (March 31, 2014) and the Report is here:

According to the Board’s Report, the lawyer was representing himself in a small claims collection litigation matter which began in 2006. In January 2011, following a hearing at which the lawyer failed to appear, the judge (Judge Kennedy) issued an order denying the lawyer’s outstanding motions. The lawyer then filed a motion to reconsider alleging that the judge had improperly ruled on the motions since the case had been set only for a status conference. In the motion, the lawyer stated: “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 dictorial (sic) regimes.” He also alleged that all of the judges in the Illinois Sixth Circuit had colluded against him

According to the Report, during the lawyer’s unsuccessful attempts to vacate the judgment, he also made the following claims and statements in various pleadings:

1. “Judge Leonhard erred by requiring the Respondent “to testify in open court, with regard to his social security number” and “demanded that [Respondent] provide an answer in open court as to his social security number”
2. Judge Leonhard was “purposely manipulating the record”;
3. The judge engaged in a “deliberate effort to destroy [Respondent’s] case and/or a deliberate effort to intimidate [Respondent] from further pursuing his rights by giving [Respondent] an introductory lesson in the abusive powers of the Judge.”
4. The proceedings were a “sham” and the judge was a “prejudicial judge”;
5. Judge Leonhard made sure Respondent’s testimony was not on the record.
6. Judge Leonhard improperly left the bench and walked out of the courtroom while the process server was on the stand; and
7. In describing Judge Leonhard’s abuse, Respondent questioned whether Judge Leonhard might be at a “low point” in his career and might need assistance with stressors in his life, referencing the Lawyers Assistance Program.”

The Illinois Hearing Board found that the above statements were false. In December 2011, the lawyer filed a motion to recuse the judge and, in the motion, he referred to the judge as a “scourge on his profession” and to both the judge and opposing counsel as “predators”. The motion also called the opposing counsel a “susceptible boy-lawyer” who learned from the judge the power of corruption so he “can accept a judgeship, representing the next generation of Illinois corruption.”

The Hearing Board found that the lawyer’s statements regarding the integrity of the judges violated Rule 8.2(a) and 8.4(d) and that he made a false statement of fact to a tribunal in violation of Rule 3.3(a)(1) related to his statement that all of the judges in the Sixth Circuit colluded against him, since conceded that he had no evidence of the alleged collusion. The Hearing Board found that the lawyer did not violate Rule 4.4(a) (the statements served no substantial, legitimate purpose other than to harass, demean and insult the judges and opposing counsel); however, the Review Board’s Report found that the lawyer violated that rule (and all of the others) and recommended a one year suspension (with six months stayed) and a one year probation to follow under the supervision of a licensed Illinois lawyer.

Bottom line: You know the old cliché “…every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.” Henry Kett, 1814 (restated by Abraham Lincoln). One of the reasons for this cliché is the very real possibility/probability that the person who represents him or herself will become too emotional about the matter. It appears that this may have been exactly what happened to this lawyer, whose intemperate criticism of the judge (and opposing counsel) may have bought him a substantial suspension from practice. Stay tuned…

…and please be careful out there!

Disclaimer: this blog is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431
Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670
[email protected]

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