Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the disciplinary Complaint that was recently filed by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission alleging that a lawyer’s blog posts were, inter alia, false, dishonest, deceitful, and prejudicial to the administration of justice. The opinion is: In the Matter of Joanne Marie Dennison, No. 6192441, Commission No.2013PR00001 (January 8, 2013. The disciplinary Complaint is at: https://www.iardc.org/13PR0001CM.html.
According to the Complaint, the lawyer started two blogs, one called, “marygsykes – An attorney blog concerning corruption and greed in the Probate Court of Cook County,” and the other called “marygsykes”, after a Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court judge disqualified her from continuing to serve as an attorney for the guardian of an individual named Mary Sykes. The judge found that the lawyer had notarized the signatures of Sykes and her daughter on a document which provided a benefit to the daughter at a time when Sykes might have suffered from dementia. Sykes’ daughter was the guardian and the lawyer’s client.
The Complaint also states that the lawyer’s public blogs described what she called the “sleazy world of probate” and states: “(w)hile the above case has a long, long history, much of which is documented on a blog to be found at http://www.marygsykes.com, the reality of the situation is that this probate proceeding boils down to garden variety theft, embezzlement, malpractice and malfeasance by attorneys and the court…” The lawyer’s blog also identified certain court-appointed guardians by name and initials and described them as “tortfeasors.”
Also according to the Complaint, “(t)he blogs were open to the public and were not password-protected. (The lawyer) knew or should have known that the contents of her blogs were continuously available to anyone with access to the Internet. (T)he lawyer has a purported disclaimer on her blogs, which included the following language:
Sorry, but portions of this blog have to be entertaining so we can get the word out. There is most certainly a great deal of (stinging) truth in it, esp. for the GAL’s (sic), the probate court and a society that ignores (thereby condoning) the sleazy world of probate, and in particular the 18th floor of the Daley Center in Chicago, but everyone needs to understand, these are not pleadings, there is no Motion, Response and Reply set by any court, together with extended legal argument recorded by a court reporter and subject to a Motion to Reconsider if errors or new evidence is found.”
Bottom line: This is an example of the risk that lawyers take by making controversial public comments in the digital age. In this case, the lawyer may firmly believe that she is providing a public service by blogging about alleged corruption in the probate practice in Cook County, Illinois; however, the Illinois disciplinary commission has seen the blogs and apparently does not agree. Keep in mind that these the allegations have yet to be proven. Stay tuned…
…and be careful out there!
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.
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Clearwater, Florida 33759
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