The moral of this case: lawyers should not explode on paper
A wise lawyer once told me never to send a letter that I would be embarrassed to see quoted on the front page of the New York Times. Needless to say, the rule should extend to never filing a brief that one would be embarrassed to see quoted in an appellate opinion. But apparently not everyone got that message.
This opinion is a ruling on a rule to show cause issued against a lawyer for two “intemperate submissions” that he filed in the First District appellate court. In the underlying case, the circuit court granted summary judgment against the lawyer’s client and the client appealed. In the interim, the trial judge was appointed to the appellate court. The appellate court panel (which obviously did not include the former trial judge) affirmed the judgment in an unpublished Rule 23 order.
The disappointed attorney filed a petition for rehearing and (inexplicably) a motion to publish the order as an opinion. The content of those two filings prompted the court to order the attorney to file a response and show cause why sanctions should not issue pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 375.
The opinion details some of the lawyer’s more offensive statements. Among other things, he accused the court of “dishonest assumptions,” “hypocrisy,” “making false and misleading statements,” being insufficiently “serious about following the law,” and finding it “more important to maintain a friendly relationship with their colleague down the hallway than it was to do justice in a case that did not personally involve them.”
In his response to the rule, the lawyer observed that he “exploded, on paper” but that he is now “chastened and humiliated.” He went on to acknowledge that the filings lacked civility and apologize to the court for “intemperate, incorrect, and wrong statements” in his filings.
The court’s core message is worthy of quoting in full:
Counsel’s resort to invective rather than civil, cogent, intelligible and intelligent argument in support of his position does nothing to encourage understanding of his client’s position. This conduct impedes constructive discourse and reduces the unsuccessful attorney to the equivalent of a child pouting in the corner when he does not get his way. While this insulting language may impress his client in a manner more suited for talk radio, it has absolutely no place in a judicial setting as it does nothing to serve the interest of justice and it promotes disrespect for the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
Ultimately, the court chose not to impose sanctions. But the question begged is clear: What could the lawyer possibly have expected to accomplish for his client by exploding on paper? Intentionally antagonizing the judges who decide the client’s case certainly is not persuasive and is the opposite of effective advocacy, as the lawyer learned too late and to his detriment. On the brighter side, at least he finally got a published opinion as he requested, although probably not quite the one that he wanted.
Talamine v. Apartment Finders, Inc., 2013 IL App (1st) 121201.