Update: FL Lawyers Disbarred for setting up opposing counsel for DUI arrest

This is a follow-up for a story that I have been blogging about for three and a half years.  Click here to read the original post.  The summary version is that a law firm set up their opposing counsel, in the middle of a high profile trial, to get arrested for DUI.  The DUI case against the attorney was later dropped.

Now, the attorneys who masterminded this stunt have been disbarred.  Here is the story from News 4 Jacksonville:

Describing the misconduct as “essentially unprecedented,” the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that two attorneys should be permanently disbarred for their roles in setting up the drunken-driving arrest of an opposing lawyer during a high-profile case.

Justices unanimously supported the disbarment of Robert D. Adams and Adam Robert Filthaut, who were with the Tampa firm Adams & Diaco, P.A. in January 2013 when the bizarre series of events occurred.

At that time, Adams & Diaco was defending radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem in a defamation lawsuit filed by another radio personality, Todd Schnitt. Adams, Filthaut and a third member of the firm, Stephen Christopher Diaco, took part in a scheme to set up a DUI arrest of one of Schnitt’s lawyers, Phillip Campbell, according to the Supreme Court.

“The misconduct giving rise to the disciplinary actions against these three attorneys is among the most shocking, unethical, and unprofessional as has ever been brought before this (Supreme) Court,” the 13-page ruling said.

Diaco agreed earlier to disbarment, according to the ruling.

The set-up took place on Jan. 23, 2013, as the civil lawsuit involving the radio personalities was in recess for the night. Campbell and his co-counsel in the case had walked to Malio’s Steakhouse in Tampa for dinner and drinks and were spotted by a paralegal who worked for Adams & Diaco.

The paralegal, Melissa Personius, contacted Adams about Campbell being in the restaurant and ultimately had drinks with Campbell at the bar without telling him that she worked for Adams & Diaco, the Supreme Court ruling said. Filthaut, meanwhile, called a friend, then-Tampa police Sgt. Raymond Fernandez and told him Campbell was drinking at Malio’s and might drive while intoxicated.

Later in the evening, with Campbell planning to walk to his home a few blocks away, he offered to call a cab for Personius. Personius refused to leave her car overnight in valet parking and insisted it be moved to a secure parking lot, the ruling said. Campbell agreed to move the car to a lot near his apartment building and was pulled over by Fernandez and subsequently charged with DUI. Also, Campbell’s bag containing trial information was left in Personius’ car.

“The next day, Stephen Diaco made several statements to the media about the DUI of his opposing counsel Campbell, how the arrest caused the trial to be continued, and how Campbell’s behavior was a mockery of the judicial system and an embarrassment to Diaco as an attorney,” the ruling said.

Read the full story here:  http://www.news4jax.com/digital-life-365/legal-news/lawyers-disbarred-over-shocking-dui-set-up

Justin Blackmon gets Probation for third DUI

This is a follow-up to a story I first posted last December (which you can read here).

From News 4 Jacksonville:

Suspended Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon has been given a one-year suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to a DUI charge from a December arrest in Oklahoma.

Blackmon’s attorney said that sentence means that Blackmon will be on probation for one year, and he will have to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.

Blackmon was booked by the Carter County Sheriff’s Office in December 2015 after he was arrested by an officer with the Ardmore (Oklahoma) Police Department.

According to the arrest report, the officer found Blackmon’s car stopped on a street in Ardmore just before 3 a.m. with a brake light out.

The officer could smell alcohol coming from the vehicle, and Blackmon and his passenger both admitted they had been drinking, according to the report. Blackmon failed a field sobriety test and a Breathalyzer test. The report did not indicate what Blackmon’s blood alcohol level was on the Breathalyzer.

Blackmon was previously arrested for DUI by a Payne County sheriff’s deputy in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on June 3, 2012, and was released later that day. He blew 0.24, according to police.

He also had a 2010 DUI arrest in Texas while playing for Oklahoma State. The Jaguars knew about that arrest when they drafted him in the first round (fifth overall) in 2012.

Blackmon has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy.

 

Tim Hardaway charged with DUI

Various news organizations are reporting that former NBA star (and current Pistons’ assistant coach) Tim Hardaway was arrested last April in Beverly Hills for DUI with a BAC of 0.17.

ClickonDetroit states:

Tim Hardaway, who is entering his third season with the Pistons, is accused of drunken driving after police said his blood alcohol content was twice over the legal limit when an officer pulled him over in Beverly Hills.

The 5-time NBA All-Star was pulled over less than one block from his home and just down the street from the police station. The officer spotted Hardaway’s car along 13 Mile Road and Lasher Road.

Court records show his blood alcohol content was .17…

Court papers reveal officers pulled him over just a few houses from his front door. Beverly Hills police refused to comment about the open case.

It’s unclear where Hardaway was coming from or if anyone else was in the car when he was pulled over. Local 4 asked the Pistons organization when they became aware of the charges, and a spokesperson said, “We’re aware of the situation, but we’re not going to comment any further on it.”

Hardaway is fighting the charges but until then, his driving privileges are limited. Records show he “can travel for business purpose only” and is required to use “Soberlink with testing twice a day,” in which a camera records if he’s sober.

His attorney said since the case is still pending, he would not elaborate, but told Terry, “We are working towards a resolution” to possibly avoid trial.

Cook County Judge Censured for false mortgage application

The Illinois Courts Commission has censured Cook County Judge Beatriz Santiago for making false statement on a mortgage application.  The full text of the order can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/document/321625953/Santiago-order

The gist of the complaint was that Santiago has owned a home since 2005.  In 2012, she decided to run for a the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit, even though her home was outside the subcircuit.  She claimed to have solved the residency issue by moving in with her parents, who do live in the subcircuit.  She did not sell the house.  There was a residency challenge to her candidacy, which she defeated, and then she went on to win her election.

After being sworn in, she then sought to re-finance her house.  As part of this process, she affirmed several times that the house was her principal place of residence.  This helped her obtain FHA loan approval for the refinance.  It also was revealed by a WGN investigation that the Judge had claimed a homeowner’s tax exemption on the property in 2012, which she later paid back.

In her defense, she claimed that she did not read the paperwork closely, and had quickly signed it during a lunch break.  She was a former public defender not familiar with real estate law.  She claimed that she in fact lives with her parents in the subcircuit, does not live at the house, and that it is currently being used by members of her family.  Several attorneys attested to her good character and reputation for honesty.

The Judge was charged with failing to maintain high standards of conduct and failing to respect and comply with the law.  As a sanction, she was censured.

Update: More details emerge about Judge who let clerk wear her robes

Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times has a story with more details about the Markham Courthouse judge who let a law clerk (who is running unopposed for Cook County Judge this November) to take her place on the bench.

I have re-ordered a few of the paragraphs to give you the gist.  Click on the link above to read the whole story.  The way I see it, Judge Turner was probably taking pride in mentoring the longtime courthouse law clerk who is about to become a judge but crossed a major line when she allowed Crawford to take her place, even if it was for a couple of minor tickets.  In essence, Judge Turner was just previewing what soon to be Judge Crawford will be doing at Traffic Court next December or January, which is learning how to handle a traffic call — assuming that she will be allowed to take the bench after this incident.

Sources say Crawford was informally “job shadowing” Turner to learn how to perform a judge’s duties when Turner allowed her to take the bench and rule on some cases.

Evans’ office did not disclose whether Turner remained in the courtroom while Crawford took the bench.

Unfortunately, their “training session” was about four months premature….

A spokesman for Evans said the Aug. 11 incident involved “two minor traffic tickets — one for driving with no insurance and another for driving on a median.” Evans did not reveal how Crawford ruled in those cases, but his spokesman indicated both cases will be heard again by another judge….

Crawford, 45, won the Democratic nomination in March for a judgeship from the 1st judicial subcircuit, which includes portions of the South Side and south suburbs.

With no opponent in the November election, Crawford is certainly expected to win the office. But she and other new judges won’t be sworn in until December and have no authority until they are.

Crawford received 47 percent of the vote to beat out two other candidates in the primary despite being rated “not recommended” by all of the major bar groups after she declined to participate in their evaluation process. She defeated the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate.

During the campaign, Crawford described herself as a staff attorney for the Cook County Circuit Court and assigned as a law clerk in the Markham courthouse…

Crawford, who lives in Calumet City, became a lawyer in 2003 after graduating from Chicago Kent College of Law. Prior to that, she was a registered nurse.

I am curious to see what consequences, if any there will be for this.  I am guessing just a written reprimand for the Judge and Ms. Crawford. The key is that I don’t believe that either of them had any bad intent in doing this.  It was part of a mentoring process that went too far.

I am also curious to find out how this got to the attention of Chief Judge Evans, and whether that person will face retaliation for whistle-blowing.

Markham Judge in hot water after allowing an attorney (and Judge to be) to handle her court call

I was absolutely stunned to see this story posted on the online edition of the Chicago Tribune today:

 A veteran Cook County Circuit Court judge allegedly allowed a lawyer who is running for election to the bench to wear her robe and hear some of her cases at the Markham courthouse late last week, a breach of judicial ethics as well as a potential violation of the law.

The move prompted the county’s chief judge, Timothy Evans, to remove the judge from the bench Wednesday until further notice.

The incident occurred in the courtroom of Judge Valarie Turner, who allegedly allowed lawyer Rhonda Crawford to take her place on the bench during her morning call of cases, Evans said in a statement. It is not clear if people appearing for cases knew of the situation in the courtroom.

Turner, a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Chicago law school, is a former federal prosecutor who also worked as an associate with the Kirkland & Ellis law firm. First elected to the bench in 2002, she hears municipal cases in Markham.

Crawford, records show, works for the office of Chief Judge Timothy Evans. In March, she handily defeated two opponents in the Democratic primary for the 1st Judicial Subcircuit, which includes parts of the South Side of Chicago and some of the south suburbs.

She is unopposed in the November general election.

Pat Milhizer, a court spokesman, declined to say if Evans referred the matter to criminal authorities for investigation or to the disciplinary agencies that handle misconduct allegations made against lawyers and judges. He also would not say the types of cases Crawford improperly presided over or what now happens to those cases.

The incident shocked judicial ethics experts, who said it would be such an ethical lapse — and possibly a violation of the law for the impersonation of a judge — they were surprised any judge would allow it, and any lawyer would actually take the bench. It also raised a host of issues, from questions about the validity of any judgment Crawford might have rendered to the cost and inconvenience of rehearing cases she handled…

Evans also suspended Crawford from her job pending an internal investigation. She has been a law clerk/staff attorney in his office since 2011, and makes nearly $57,000 a year.

Evans made the move after a meeting with his executive committee.

“The public’s confidence in the judiciary is the cornerstone of our system of justice, and I have taken the steps necessary to preserve that confidence,” Evans said in the statement. “Because the investigation is pending, I believe it is inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Chief Judge Timothy Evans has removed Judge Valarie Turner from her current duties in Markham and has reassigned her to restricted non-judicial duty in Chicago for the time being.

I have appeared in front of Judge Turner many times (as well as her husband, who is also a Judge) and just saw both of them yesterday.  I have nothing bad to say about this judge, and I hope this turns out to be a mistake.

The only time that I have ever heard of something like this is  former Cook County Judge Ray Sodini, one of the judges who was caught up in the Greylord scandal, who is also remembered mostly for calling in and having a court bailiff handle his morning court call when he was too hung over to make it to court.  (Which is not meant to imply that Judge Valarie Turner is anything like Judge Ray Sodini, who was both an alcoholic and corrupt.  I imagine that Judge Turner’s mistake, assuming that this is true, is that she made a serious lapse in judgement.).

Texas DWI prosecutor arrested for DWI

parker

Contrary to public perception, DUI is a very common-place criminal offense.  It is committed by all sorts of people, people who give a lot to their community and are accomplished in their professional lives.

Sometimes it is because the person drank a little more than he or she should have. Sometimes, they aren’t impaired but had the misfortune to get pulled over by a zealous police officer trying to make a quota.

So I was not surprised to read about a Texas DWI prosecutor who was arrested for the same offense that she prosecutes every day.

Please keep in mind that no facts about her case have been released yet, and she is presumed innocent. At a minimum, she will gain some perspective on what it is like to have one’s life upended by an arrest and to have to go through the judicial system as a defendant.

From WacoTrib.com:

An assistant McLennan County district attorney who prosecutes DWI cases was arrested early Saturday morning on a charge of suspicion of driving while intoxicated, jail records indicate.

Kristen Parker, 27, was arrested by a Baylor University police officer Saturday morning before she was booked into the McLennan County Jail a little before 4:45 a.m., authorities said. Parker was released later Saturday after posting a $1,000 surety bond.

Parker joined the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office about a year ago. She is typically responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor DWI cases.

Parker is a 2010 Vanderbilt University graduate and got her law degree from Baylor Law School in 2014, according to her LinkedIn page.