Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will update my 7/30/13 Ethics Alert blog and will discuss the January 24, 2014 Report and Recommendation by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission upholding a Hearing Board recommendation that a lawyer receive a 90 day suspension for failing to communicate plea offers, disrupting the tribunal, and revealing confidential information on multiple occasions in public court hearings. The case is In re Theresa Cesar Garza, Commission No. 2012PR00035 (1/24/14). The Report and Recommendation is attached and is here http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=11250.
According to the Report and Recommendation, the lawyer was an assistant public defender with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office. She failed to communicate plea offers to 3 clients and she revealed inculpatory client confidential information in open court on 3 separate occasions without the clients’ permission, including admissions of her client’s guilt and presence at the crime scene, all of which had been made to her in private conferences and meetings with clients.
In separate incident, the lawyer was appointed on May 18, 2011 to represent a client (Boyd) who had been charged with theft whose trial was scheduled for that day. The client client’s previous (private) lawyer said that he had not received photo lineups and stated that a video the prosecutor provided did not play. The judge told the client that he would give her a short continuance to obtain another attorney and told her to talk to the lawyer. The lawyer met with the client and later appeared before the judge. After a discussion regarding when the prosecutor could produce the requested video, the lawyer said, “If the court wishes for me to go (to trial) today, show me the video, and then I would go today.” The judge stated that he would pass the case for trial to allow her to view the video.
The client apparently told the lawyer that she needed to leave to pick up a child from school that day and she would then return to the courtroom. When case was later called for trial, the client was not there. The lawyer said that the prosecutor was just then showing her the video and that the client had left to pick up her child. The judge said that the case was set for trial and that he would issue a warrant for the client’s arrest. The lawyer then said “Oh shit” and, when the judge asked her what she said, she stated “Oh shoot” and said it was her fault that the client was not present. The judge then issued the arrest warrant.
In another incident before the same judge, the lawyer was representing a client (Poole) and the judge set bond at $1,000.00. The lawyer asked the judge to reconsider the bond amount and the judge denied the request. The lawyer then offered to post the client’s bond although the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure prohibits lawyers from paying for bail. The judge advised the lawyer that he thought it would be unethical for her to post the bond and continued the case for a hearing on May 25, 2011. The lawyer then requested that the client be brought back to court the following day and, after the judge denied her request, she replied, “Oh, that’s lovely.
In yet another incident before the same judge, the lawyer appeared on behalf of another client (Rivera), who she was appointed to represent on June 2, 2011. She requested a reduction of the bond and, after her request was denied, she raised her voice. When the judge told her that he had not lost his hearing, the lawyer continued to argue with a raised voice. The judge then stated, “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.” Following this incident, the lawyer was removed from her assignment and put on office duty. In late July 2011, the Cook County Public Defender’s Office terminated the lawyer’s employment.
According to the Report, the lawyer represented herself in the discipline proceedings and testified in a rambling narrative. She did not testify about her current practice, but did mention that she had some personal difficulties at the time of her misconduct. She said that her mother had recently passed away and she was still reeling from her death. She also said that her birthday was May 10, which was the day before her initial misconduct and that her birthday reminded her of her mother. She also tried to explain her conduct by saying that she was working in a “hostile environment.” The lawyer also offered the testimony of Steven Shobat and he said that he met the lawyer when they were both at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the lawyer was a mentor to him. He testified that she had a reputation as an ethical and honest attorney, they went into private practice together in 1994 and the partnership lasted about eighteen months, and the lawyer is “passionate” about her clients.
Bottom line: This appears to be another example of an assistant public defender who was overwhelmed by her workload and/or her personal life and acted overly “passionate” on behalf of her clients. If it is upheld, the 90 day suspension recommendation also appears to be relatively light for the cited misconduct…
Let’s be careful out there!
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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Clearwater, Florida 33759
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