ARDC Charges Lawyer With Making False Statements In Judicial Campaign Advertising

BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD:

The ARDC alleged that a lawyer made false statements in advertisements in his judicial campaign. An excerpt from the complaint is set forth below:

5. The front side of Respondent’s campaign mailer referred to a 1989 case in St. Clair County in which Rodney Woitdke (“Woidtke”) had been convicted of murder. The mailer stated that Woidtke spent 12 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit, and it cited an opinion of the Illinois Appellate Court for 5th Judicial District in 2000 that reversed the denial of Woidtke’s post-conviction petition and remanded for his case for a new trial, on the basis of a conflict of interest on the part Woidtke’s trial counsel, then-Assistant Public Defender Brian Trentman (“Trentman”). Respondent’s mailer then stated the following:
“Supervising Public Defender VINCENT J. LOPINOT and his Assistant, Brian Trentman ‘were NEGLIGENT in their representation of Mr. Woidtke in a 1989 criminal proceeding that resulted in his wrongful conviction of murder of Audrey Cardenas.’ (Source: Woidtke v. St. Clair County, St. Clair Public Defenders Office, Brian K. Trentman and Vincent Lopinot, No. 02-4223, May 2003) (sic)”
In the above-quoted text, Judge Lopinot’s name was in a very large font and all capital letters, while Trentman’s name was in a very small font and with only the first letters capitalized. See Exhibit One.
6. On the mailer, accompanying the above-quoted text, was a photograph of Judge Lopinot that bore the epigraph “NEGLIGENT” and was imposed over a larger photograph of a man whose wrists and mouth were bound with duct tape.See Exhibit One.
7. Respondent’s representations that Judge Lopinot had supervised Trentman in the Woidtke case, and that Judge Lopinot was negligent in the case, were false. Judge Lopinot had no involvement in the Woidtke case in 1989.”
Comment: there may be a first amendment issue with this prosecution. Recently, the United States Supreme Court invalidated a stolen valor conviction on the ground that the First Amendment allows people to lie in some statements.  A stolen valor case is one in which the defendant falsely claims that he was a veteran or received a medal as a veteran. The distinction that could be used in this case is that the lawyer made false statements about another person. In any event, anyone running for judge has to be careful that the disciplinary authorities will inquire as to a campaign advertisement.
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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