Attorney Misconduct, Legal Ethics, Rudeness, State Judges

‘Oh Sh*t': Attorney Faces Discipline for Allegedly Cursing in Court

Female attorneys must be on the same cycle in Illinois, because based on all of the ethics complaints that have come down the pipeline, they’ve been acting a little crazy.

Today’s tale of alleged attorney misconduct comes to us as a result of a former public defender’s behavior in court. It’s nowhere near as juicy as the allegations against Reema Bajaj or Tamara Tanzillo, but it’s certainly a cautionary tale for lawyers everywhere who get a little hot-headed when they’re arguing before the bench.

Before you can say “oh sh*t,” let’s get down to the allegations….

Therese Cesar Garza, a former assistant public defender in Cook County, Illinois, stands accused of failing to communicate plea offers and of disclosing confidential information to judges, amongst other things. But it’s the other things that we’re going to focus on, because Cesar has been accused of being a divalicious defendress.

For example, according to the ethics complaint, Cesar allegedly got mouthy with Judge Anthony Calabrese when he issued a warrant for her client’s arrest:

MS. CESAR: Oh sh*t.

THE COURT: What did you say, Ms. Cesar?

MS. CESAR: Oh shoot, I said. Oh shoot. I’m sorry I didn’t talk to her, Judge. I’m just – – it’s my fault. I’m running around, talking to people.

THE COURT: I don’t think that’s what you said.

MS. CESAR: Whatever. I know the word you think I said. My mother never let me say that, and I’ll tell you why. But I said shoot, darn it.

Shoot, sh*t, it’s really all the same. But when everything you say is being transcribed by a court reporter, you can’t exactly take it back. At least she had the good sense to say “darn it,” instead of “damn it.”

And we picture her saying “whateverrr,” like Cher in Clueless, if only because the ethics complaint makes Cesar seem like she’s kind of a brat. You really can’t scream at a judge and expect to get your way (unless, of course, you want to get slapped with a charge of bringing the “legal profession into disrepute”).

That being said, when Judge Calabrese denied Cesar’s requests on a different matter, she apparently began to yell and make a scene:

MS. CESAR: If I could correct the record, I told the Court at about 11:00 o’clock I had trouble getting people. And when I finally got through, I talked to Mr. Word. He said he was going to try to come.

THE COURT: Excuse me. I did not lose my hearing.

MS. CESAR: I did not say he was on the way. He indicated that he would come.

THE COURT: Let me just indicate again, you are yelling on the record. This happens all the time when you don’t get your way. Because you lose something doesn’t mean you have to start yelling at me. I haven’t gotten deaf over the course of the time I have listened to your argument. I just don’t agree with you. And it’s okay that people don’t agree.

Talk about a benchslap. You know you’ve turned down the wrong path when the man presiding over your case seems to be judging your character more than your knowledge of the law.

Mike Frisch of the Legal Profession Blog wonders if the ethics complaint against Cesar is “a bit overcharged,” and we agree that it might be. Because when other lovely lady lawyers in the state stand accused of prostitution and baring their breasts for the world to see, what’s one little “oh sh*t” in open court?

Therese Cesar Garza Ethics Complaint [Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission]
Oh Shoot [Legal Profession Blog]
Ethics Complaint Against Ex-PD Includes Allegation She Used the S-Word in Court [ABA Journal]

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