ARDC Proposes 3 Month Suspension For “Offensive Language” Targeting Women Lawyers

On October 22, 2019, the ARDC Hearing Board recommended a 3 month suspension for Jason Craddock who, it found, used offensive language with women lawyers.

The respondent made demeaning and insulting remarks to two women lawyers in the course of litigation. The Northern District of Illinois suspended Respondent for six months for his actions.

The ARDC Hearing Panel identified two incidents of inappropriate language. The Opinion states in part:

“September 15, 2016 Incident in the Wyman Matter

The first incident occurred in the hallway of the federal courthouse after a hearing in the Wyman matter. Judge Kennelly had set a briefing schedule on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. After Respondent failed to file a response, Judge Kennelly, on his own motion, issued a rule to show cause why Respondent should not be sanctioned or held in contempt. (Ans. at par. 3; Tr. 33-35, 115).

The hearing on the rule to show cause was held on September 15, 2016. At the hearing, Respondent requested an additional extension of time to file his response. Ms. Lindbert opposed the request. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Kennelly agreed to give Respondent one more opportunity to respond and granted him a final extension. (Ans. at par. 3; Tr. 35-37, 115).

According to Ms. Lindbert, prior to the rule to show cause hearing, she had sent Respondent a letter pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure notifying him she did not believe Wyman’s claim had merit. After they left Judge Kennelly’s courtroom and were walking toward the elevators, she told Respondent she would be filing a motion for Rule 11 sanctions and was going to report him to the ARDC. Ms. Lindbert testified that she had her back to Respondent at the time and asked Respondent if he had heard her. Respondent responded, “I heard you Cuntney.” Ms. Lindbert turned around and said, “Excuse me?” Respondent then repeated, “I heard you Cuntney.” (Tr. 37-39, 60-61).

Ms. Lindbert testified that she was in shock after Respondent’s remarks and did not respond. She returned to the office and met with both Frank Andreou and Luke Casson, the firm’s partners, and they consulted with ethics counsel for advice. (Tr. 39-42; Tr. 51).

Ms. Lindbert testified she experienced a variety of feelings, including anger and embarrassment. She believed Respondent’s use of that word and his incorporation of it into her name was inappropriate anywhere, particularly in the hallway of the federal courthouse. She testified that the situation made her uncomfortable and was a little intimidating. (Tr. 39-42).”

Later the respondent again used inappropriate language in an email as follows:

“The second incident occurred after summary judgment was granted in favor of Evgeros in the Knapp matter. Respondent sought to challenge that ruling and filed a motion to reconsider. Evgeros filed its response to the motion on November 7, 2016. In accordance with the briefing schedule set by the court, Respondent filed his initial reply on behalf of Knapp on November 21, 2016. On November 27, 2016, without leave of court, Respondent filed an additional pleading which he called a “Corrected Reply.” (Adm. Ex. 8T; Tr. 33, 42-43, 121-22).

On December 2, 2016, Ms. Lindbert filed a motion for sanctions and to strike the Corrected Reply. She believed the filing was untimely in the sense that he had filed two pleadings without leave of court. Ms. Lindbert acknowledged that she asserted in her motion that both the original reply and the Corrected Reply were untimely and should be stricken. (Adm. Ex. 8T; Tr. 44-45, 65-67).

On Friday, December 2, 2016, Judge Feinerman denied, without prejudice, Evgeros’ motion for sanctions and to strike. He also directed that if the motion were re-filed, the defendant clarify what it meant by untimely and without leave of court. (Ans. at par. 5; Tr. 45-46, 68).

The next day, Saturday evening December 3, 2016, at 10:46 p.m., Ms. Lindbert received the following email message from Respondent on her work email:

Cuntney Lindbitch, your days of filing unnecessary, frivolous motions and abusing and harassing attorneys with disabilities will come to an end. This last effort by you?trying to prejudice me by claiming that a timely filing was filed “untimely and without leave of court” was over the top. Your client will soon see that it is YOU, not me, who is “bleeding it dry.” (Ans. at par. 5; Adm. Ex. 1; Tr. 46).

Ms. Lindbert viewed the language in the email as threatening. She stated that she was shocked and scared, and no longer wanted anything to do with the situation. (Tr. 47-50). Ms. Lindbert forwarded the email to Mr. Andreou and Mr. Casson, who told her not to respond. The following Monday, she was advised she was being taken off the cases and needed to report the matter to the ARDC. Mr. Casson took over the cases and filed motions for sanctions attaching the email. (Tr. 49-51).”

The Panel found that the Respondent had violated Rules 4.4(a) ([i]n representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person”) and 8.4(d) (prejudice to the administration of justice).

The Panel opinion concluded with these comments;

“After considering precedent, the nature and seriousness of the misconduct, the aggravating and mitigating factors, and the goals of the disciplinary process, we conclude that a three-month suspension is appropriate discipline in this matter. This is within the range of sanctions imposed in cases involving misconduct of this nature. While it is debatable whether Respondent’s misconduct is as serious as in the cases at the higher end of this range, we believe it warrants more than the minimum sanction. This is particularly true since Respondent’s misconduct involved multiple incidents as well as significant additional aggravation.

We also note that while precedent was considered, each case is unique and must be decided based on its own facts. After considering the particular facts and circumstances in this case, we believe that a meaningful period of suspension is necessary to fulfill the purposes of the disciplinary process. Respondent’s misconduct presents a particularly egregious example of incivility as well as the mistreatment of women in the legal profession. Such grossly unprofessional conduct brings the entire profession into disrepute. We believe a message needs to be sent to Respondent as well as the rest of the bar that such conduct is unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and will be met with serious consequences. We also believe that the Illinois bar should be ahead of, not behind, society’s long overdue attention to misogyny. Our sanction recommendation also reflects these concerns.”

I agree with the decision of the Hearing Panel, which, in my opinion, is well reasoned and thoughtful.