False Statement In Advertising Mailer in Judicial Election Draws Reprimand

Filed May 18:

The Illinois Review Board has decided to affirm the Hearing Board’s decision to reprimand Ronald Richard Duebbert for making false statements in a campaign flyer.

The Review Board explained that Duebbert violated Rule 8.2(a) by misquoting the Seventh Circuit and by blaming his opponent in the judicial election for something he did not do.

“Respondent had read the Seventh Circuit opinion in Woidtke v. St. Clair Countyid. He then, along with his campaign manager, decided to respond by sending out a flyer that contained the following language:

Rodney Woidtke spent 12 years in prison for a murder HE DID NOT COMMIT. (Source: People v. Woidtke, No. 5-99-0331, 5th District, 26 April 2000)
Because ?.
Supervising Public Defender VINCENT J. LOPINOT and his Assistant, Brian Trentman, “were NEGLIGENT in the 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 County Public Defenders Office, Brian K. Trentman and Vincent Lopinot, No. 02-4223, May 2003)
Next to the above statement, Respondent placed a picture of Lopinot with the word “NEGLIGENT” in white with a red background underneath the picture. Respondent sent the flyer to 75,000 to 100,000 people. Despite the mailing of the flyer, Respondent lost the election to Judge Lopinot.
The above language was taken from the Seventh Circuit opinion but was not an accurate quotation. The opinion actually read in the opening paragraphs of the opinion, “In Count I, Mr. Woidtke alleged that Attorney Trentman and his supervisor, Attorney Judge Lopinot, had been negligent in their representation of Mr. Woidtke in a 1989 criminal proceeding that resulted in his conviction.” Respondent does not deny that he misquoted the Seventh Circuit opinion.


8.2(a) Violation

Rule 8.2(a) provides, “A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.” Respondent contends that the Hearing Board’s findings that Respondent’s statement in the mailer was false and that he knew the statement in the mailer was false are against the manifest weight of the evidence.
The Hearing Board’s finding that Respondent’s statement in the flyer was false was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. The statement was not an accurate quotation from the Seventh Circuit opinion although the mailer made it appear as though it was a direct quotation. Moreover, the Seventh Circuit never found that Lopinot was negligent.”
The Review Board also affirmed the Hearing Board’s findings that Duebbert violated Rule 8.2(b) and (c). 
Duebbert’s first amendment challenge did not fair any better because Duebbert knew the statements he made were false and misleading.  The First Amendment does not protect false statements or statements made with reckless disregard for the truth.
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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