ARDC Hearing Board Recommends 3 Year Suspension For False Statements About Judges

The case is In re JoAnne Marie Denison, 2013 PR00001

The hearing board recommended a three-year suspension for blog posts in which Ms. Denison made false and reckless statements about judges who had ruled against her in a probate case. Denison did not agree with a series of rulings by a Probate Judge in a case in which Denison represented one of the parties. Denison wrote blog posts and accused the judge of corruption, without any factual basis. She also accused the guardian ad litem of corruption and misconduct.

A small section of the discussion is quoted here:

“Respondent’s accusations of gross improprieties by the judges and GALs in the Sykes probate matter lacked any legitimate factual basis. There simply was no reasonable basis on which Respondent could have believed the probate judges were bribed to reach a specific result in the Sykes case, entered orders based on improper agreements or ex parte communications or engaged in similar types of misconduct. Similarly, there was no reasonable basis on which Respondent could have believed the GALs reaped any improper benefits from the Sykes case or were paid to look the other way, while Mary was abused and her estate looted.

According to the testimony presented, the court’s decisions were issued based on evidence and argument, not any impropriety. Judge Stuart, Stern, Farenga and Schmiedel all denied any impropriety in relation to the Sykes matter, no bribes, no improper payments, no ex parte communications. We found their testimony credible. Respondent did not present any real information to show she had any good faith basis to believe otherwise.


We reach a similar conclusion in relation to Respondent’s accusations against the GALs. Given the evidence presented, there was no logical or reasonable basis for those accusations. Rather, it appears clear to us that the accusations were made essentially because the GALs did not take positions which aligned with the views of Respondent and Gloria.

Based on the evidence, we found absolutely no rational basis on which Respondent could have believed her allegations of corruption, bribery, Greylord-type activity or the like were true. Therefore, in making such allegations, Respondent acted with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of her statements. See Amu, 2011PR00106 (Hearing Bd. at 8) (reckless disregard for the truth is shown where there is no reasonable basis for believing the statement is true).
Respondent suggests she made her comments as a private person, not as an attorney. The facts do not support this theory. At various points, the blog specifically indicates Respondent is an attorney, e.g. identifying the authors as “lawyers trying to make a difference to make things better for grandma and grandpa” and stating “it takes an attorney to make those comments?” In addition, Respondent testified it took legal knowledge to post and author the statements on the blog. Further, despite her theory that she made her statements solely as a private person, Respondent’s public false and baseless accusations of corruption, by specific individuals in relation to a specific case, properly subject her discipline. Ditkowsky, 2012PR00014 (Review Bd. at 12).
The blog’s disclaimer does not shield Respondent from discipline. Despite the disclaimer, which itself asserts some statements on the blog are true, other portions of the blog suggest statements on the blog are true. The statements with which Respondent was charged clearly accused the judges and GALs of corruption, accusations which were false and lacking in any reasonable basis. The fact that elsewhere on the blog Respondent suggests that readers do further investigation does not alter this reality.”
The Panel recommended a suspension of three years and until further order of court.

Comment: while this seems rather obvious, when you disagree with a ruling, you can criticize the reasoning of the decision in an appeal, or perhaps an article. A decision you disagree with is never a basis to accuse the court or the other side of a lack of integrity.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

‘via Blog this’

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