Illinois lawyer receives 60 day suspension for disparaging judges, violating client confidentiality on blog, and failing to correct client’s false sworn statements

Hello welcome to this Leap Day edition of the JACPA Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the Illinois assistant public defender who was charged with revealing identities and confidences of criminal defendant clients in her blog, disparaging judges, and failing to advise the court of a client’s false statements with regard to the use of drugs.

A disciplinary complaint was filed by the Illinois disciplinary commission.  On May 18, 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended the lawyer’s license to practice law in Illinois for 60 days, effective June 8, 2010.  Since the lawyer was also admitted in Wisconsin, a reciprocal discipline case was opened in that state and the lawyer agreed to a suspension to practice law in Wisconsin for 60 days, effective July 25, 2011.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court case is In re: Disciplinary Proceedings against Kristine Peshek, Case No. No. 2011AP909–D.  The Wisconsin disciplinary opinion is attached.

According to the Wisconsin disciplinary opinion (and the Illinois disciplinary complaint), the lawyer’s public blog contained confidential information about her clients and derogatory comments about judges and had information sufficient to identify those clients and judges using public sources.  She also said that a judge was “a total a—hole” (using the actual term) and called another “Judge Clueless”.  Finally, she also failed to inform the judge of her client’s false statements with regard to the use of methadone and in one of her blogs about that incident; the lawyer described her conversation with the client as follows:

“Huh? You want to go back and tell the judge that you lied to him, you lied to the pre-sentence investigator, you lied to me? And you expect what to happen if you do this? I’ll tell you what would happen; the sentence just pronounced would be immediately vacated and you’d go to prison, that’s what would happen.”

The Wisconsin opinion found, in mitigation, that the lawyer “worked tirelessly as a public defender for her entire career…and asked the panel to consider the traumatic event” wherein she was punched by a client in court.  The lawyer also realized the risk of revealing client confidences and “regretted her mistake.”  Further, “(a)t no time did (the lawyer) discern any risk of disclosing client confidences, because she believed she adequately concealed her clients’ identities to avoid inappropriate disclosure and (a)fter the issue was brought to her attention, she removed all entries related to client matters.  As far as her client’s misinforming the court, counsel advised that (the lawyer) misunderstood her ethical obligations at that point and had no intention of assisting her client in a fraud on the court.”

Bottom line: This is an update on a case that I have discussed many times at my seminar and webinar presentations regarding technology and preserving lawyer/client confidentiality.  This lawyer appears to have been venting about her stressful job and paid the price for that venting with a suspension of her license to practice law for 60 days in 2 states.

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.

THE LAW OFFICE OF JOSEPH A. CORSMEIER, P.A.

PROVIDES ETHICS ADVICE AND EXPERT OPINIONS TO LAWYERS AND LAW FIRMS

DEFENDS LAWYERS IN BAR MISSION AND DISCIPLINE CASES

(AND MUCH MORE!)

My law firm focuses on review, analysis, and interpretation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, advice and representation of lawyers in Bar disciplinary matters, defense of applicants for admission to The Florida Bar before the Board of Bar Examiners, defense of all Florida licensed professionals in discipline and admission matters before all state agencies and boards, expert ethics opinions, and practice management for lawyers and law firms.  If there is a lawyer or other Florida professional license involved, I can defend the complaint or help you get your license.

If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (727) 799-1688 or e-mail me at jcorsmeier@jac-law.com.  You can find my law firm on the web at www.jac-law.com. In addition to handling individual cases, matters, problems and issues for my clients, I also am on retainer to provide ethics advice to numerous lawyers and law firms throughout the state of Florida.  I also provide legal assistance and advice to numerous individuals and non-legal entities to help insure compliance with the law and rules related to UPL and other issues.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail 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

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

NOTICE OF CONFIDENTIALITY:  This electronic communication and the information contained herein is legally privileged and confidential proprietary information intended only for the individual and/or entity to whom it is addressed pursuant to the American Bar Association Formal Opinion No. 99-413, dated March 10, 1999 and all other applicable laws and rules.  If you receive this transmission in error, you are advised that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance upon the communication is strictly prohibited.  Any unauthorized use, distribution, or disclosure of this communication is strictly prohibited.  If you have received this in error, please notify us immediately by return e-mail at the above telephone number and then delete message entirely from your system.  Thank you for your cooperation.

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Filed under Attorney discipline, Attorney Ethics, Florida Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, joe corsmeier, Lawyer discipline, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism

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