The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
But her testimony is not likely to mitigate what appears to be some highly offensive personal conduct in various litigation venues on the part of her employer, Illinois attorney Melvin Hoffman, who is the subject of an Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) review resulting in a recommendation last week for a one-year suspension of his license – and anger management classes. (He has 21 days to appeal the recommendation.)
Hoffman’s loyal paralegal of 22 years, Karen Donnelly, testified before the ARDC that “based on her talks with clients, judges and attorneys, Hoffman has a reputation for honesty, ethics and hard work,” but her testimony was not enough to offset what the board described as “serious” misconduct – which the board said also continued during the actual disciplinary hearing.
The allegations against Hoffman read like a “Don’t” list for how to handle yourself in court, including (but not limited to):
DON’T tell a judge during a conference call that he is narcissistic and should not be on the bench (twice) – and don’t in response to the judge’s written order not to act like that again, fire off a letter repeating those statements in case he didn’t hear you accurately during the phone call.
DON’T tell an administrative law judge that her court is a “kangaroo court”, that opposing counsel is the judge’s “fellow employee” and further, that you’d be embarrassed to work as an administrative law judge.
DON’T tell opposing counsel “in the middle of a courtroom” that not only is he “unethical” but he “must be from a Jewish firm” and unrepentantly announce, “You heard me right” when opposing counsel’s jaw drops.
(For a more detailed description of what not to do, see the Report and Recommendation of the Hearing Board.)
Lillian Gish once said, “You can get through life with bad manners, but it’s easier with good manners.” Maybe the corollary for lawyers is that “you can’t practice law with bad manners – it’s easier with good manners.” It sounds like Hoffman, who has no prior disciplinary actions, would only benefit from gaining some professional insight into the cause of his inappropriate court conduct, and hopefully this proceeding will be helpful in that regard.
And God bless his sweetheart of a paralegal, Karen Donnelly, for trying to watch his back.