Attorney's "Obvious Disdain" for the Judge and Disciplinary Authorities Astonishing
The ABAJournal.com tips to the Legal Profession Blawg, Wednesday morning, with this account of an Ottawa, Illinois attorney, Melvin H. Hoffman who is astonishingly rude and disrespectful. The report is from Mike Frisch:
"The Illinois Review Board rejected a First Amendment defense to charges of making disparaging remarks about judicial officers and recommended a six-month suspension with reinstatement conditioned on further court order. The attorney represented a client in a custody matter. The board found that:
[Opposing] Attorney...and Judge Murphy testified that during the telephone conversation Respondent stated that he refused to appear before Judge Murphy. He yelled at Judge Murphy and said that he was a 'narcissistic, maniacal, mental case, and should not be on the bench.' Respondent denied that he raised his voice or that he used the phrase 'mental case."'
Following this incident, Judge Murphy entered an order requiring Respondent and his client to appear before him on February 21, 2008. On February 12, 2008, Respondent sent Judge Murphy a letter stating as follows, in relevant part:
'I must note further that during our telephone conference on February 8, 2008, you personally stated: "I have no problem with the matter being heard in LaSalle County." If that is correct, and no Motions are pending in Cook County, it is extremely difficult to comprehend any justification or motivation whatsoever for requiring the appearance of counsel other than the interjection of your personal vendetta in an attempt to rationalize your own mistake in summarily placing a 14 year old child with a drug and alcohol addict.'
[Hoffman continued] 'As an officer of the court, I must bluntly state that you appear to have serious mental issues involving extreme narcissism and illusions of grandiosity which effectively interferes with your ability to act as a Judge. I am certain this is the opinion of many other lawyers who are acquainted with you. I am aware of your tendency toward self-promotion and your blatant insinuation that you somehow have a superior ability to ascertain peremptorily and without the presentation of appropriate evidence the best interests of children. Do you in any manner accept the reality of the jeopardy in which you placed this child? Is it possible that you could apologize to my client, who has had custody of this child since birth and suffered weeks of sleepless nights wondering whether her child would return safely from her substance addicted and irresponsible former husband? Are you capable of self-examination, or do you simply react negatively and defensively to any suggestion that you are incapable of error?
Attorney Hoffman is also cited for contemptuous behavior to another magistrate sitting in another domestic relations case for behavior equally outrageous, disrespectful, and insulting, you can read the details at the link to the opinion.
Hoffman raised a "First Amendment" which was rejected, and he received a 6 month suspension.
In terms of disproportionate scale, the disciplinary action taken against the seemingly still defiant and rude, attorney Hoffman--seems pretty minimal, particularly when you look at the recent disciplinary action taken against a Minnesota attorney who took $750 from clients to feed a drug habit; Juan Jesus Rodriguez was permanently disbarred! This despite overwhelming evidence that this guy is full recovery from his drug and alcohol addiction and completely remorseful. You can read the article about Mr. Rodriguez at the Minnesota Star Tribune.
I've known a lot of attorneys like Mr. Hoffman over the years. They are verbal steamrollers; and, in large part they do what they do and they say what they say, because it works. These guys are usually pretty smart and the have found that a combination of bluff and intimidation works with certain courts and opposing lawyers, until it doesn't then they blame others including their clients.
I find it telling that Hoffman called Judge Murphy "'narcissistic, maniacal, mental case"--because in my universe when you "spot it, you got it." In other words when you react towards something you perceive in another, it is generally speaking something you yourself need to examine in yourself. In Mr. Hoffman's case, it sounds like he perfectly described himself.