BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
In the Matter of:
RONALD RICHARD DUEBBERT,
Commission No. 2013PR00127
FILED --- February 6, 2014
Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Gary S. Rapaport, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent, Ronald Richard Duebbert, who was licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois on May 10, 1990, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770:
(False statements regarding a judge in a judicial election)
1. In 2012, Respondent was the Republican candidate in an election to fill a vacancy for the office of circuit judge in the 20th Judicial Circuit in Illinois. The Democratic candidate for the position was Associate Judge Vincent J. Lopinot. Judge Lopinot had been an associate judge in the 20th Circuit since 2002.
2. In October, 2012, Respondent caused a two-sided, glossy and full-color, letter-size mailer ("the mailer") to be created and circulated. A copy of the mailer is attached and incorporated herein as Exhibit One.
3. Respondent designed and wrote the contents of the mailer, or he approved its design and contents. Respondent caused between 75,000 and 100,000 copies of the mailer to be circulated and also caused it to be printed in newspapers as a campaign ad.
4. Between 1980 and 1995, Judge Lopinot was a part-time public defender for the St. Clair County Public Defender's office, and he had no supervisory duties over other part-time or full-time defenders in that office.
5. The front side of Respondent's campaign mailer referred to a 1989 case in St. Clair County in which Rodney Woitdke ("Woidtke") had been convicted of murder. The mailer stated that Woidtke spent 12 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit, and it cited an opinion of the Illinois Appellate Court for 5th Judicial District in 2000 that reversed the denial of Woidtke's post-conviction petition and remanded for his case for a new trial, on the basis of a conflict of interest on the part Woidtke's trial counsel, then-Assistant Public Defender Brian Trentman ("Trentman"). Respondent's mailer then stated the following:
"Supervising Public Defender VINCENT J. LOPINOT and his Assistant, Brian Trentman ‘were NEGLIGENT in their 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 Public Defenders Office, Brian K. Trentman and Vincent Lopinot, No. 02-4223, May 2003) (sic)"
In the above-quoted text, Judge Lopinot's name was in a very large font and all capital letters, while Trentman's name was in a very small font and with only the first letters capitalized. See Exhibit One.
6. On the mailer, accompanying the above-quoted text, was a photograph of Judge Lopinot that bore the epigraph "NEGLIGENT" and was imposed over a larger photograph of a man whose wrists and mouth were bound with duct tape. See Exhibit One.
7. Respondent's representations that Judge Lopinot had supervised Trentman in the Woidtke case, and that Judge Lopinot was negligent in the case, were false. Judge Lopinot had no involvement in the Woidtke case in 1989.
8. Respondent knew that his representations that Judge Lopinot had supervised Trentman in the Woidtke case, and that Judge Lopinot was negligent in the case, were false, or he made the representations with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.
9. In the above-quoted statement in his campaign mailer, the purported "source" that Respondent cited was an opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that affirmed a decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois that dismissed a lawsuit that Woidtke had filed against Lopinot, Trentman, and St. Clair County. Woidtke v. St. Clair County, Illinois, et al., 335 F.3d 558 (7th Cir. 2003) (No. 02-4223). The Seventh Circuit ruled that the District Court correctly dismissed the lawsuit as time-barred. In the underlying lawsuit, Woidtke's complaint alleged, erroneously, that Lopinot had supervised and assisted Trentman when Trentman represented Woidtke in 1989. In the appellate opinion to which Respondent's mailer referred, the Seventh Circuit merely summarized Woidtke's allegations.
10. The citation in Respondent's mailer gave the appearance, falsely, that a court decision had found Judge Lopinot to be negligent in the Woidtke case.
11. Respondent knew that his citation gave the appearance, falsely, that a court decision had found Judge Lopinot to be negligent in the Woidtke case, or he created or authorized the citation with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.
12. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:
making 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, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial office, in violation of Rule 8.2(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);
as a candidate for judicial office, failing to comply with applicable provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct, in that he knowingly misrepresented the identity, qualifications, present position or other fact concerning an opponent, in violation of Rule 67A(3)(d)(2) of the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct, in violation of Rule 8.2(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and
conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).
WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.
Gary S. Rapaport
Jerome Larkin, Administrator