Filed November 26, 2012

BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
OF THE
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
AND
DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

JENNIFER L. TEAGUE,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 6255716.

Commission No. 2011PR00076

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE HEARING BOARD

INTRODUCTION

The hearing in this matter was held on April 12 and 13, 2012, at the offices of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, Springfield, Illinois before a Hearing Board Panel consisting of Paul C. Hendren, Chair, Michael C. Greenfield and Ted L Eilerman. The Administrator was represented by Denise Church. The Respondent appeared and was represented by James R. Williams.

THE PLEADINGS

On July 5, 2011, the Administrator filed a Complaint against the Respondent. An Amended Complaint, containing four counts, was filed on February 28, 2012. It was alleged and admitted that, at all times pertinent to the disciplinary charges, the Respondent was an arbitrator at the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, and her duties included conducting trials and issuing decisions in disputed cases.

Count I of the Amended Complaint alleged that, in 2010, Respondent was the arbitrator in the case of Jo Anderson v. Big Muddy River Correctional Center, and that Assistant Attorney General Teresa Omachi represented the Correctional Center. At the time the Anderson case was

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pending, Respondent had submitted her own claim for relief under the Workers' Compensation Act for injuries she claimed to have sustained during her duties as arbitrator. Also at that time, there was a 180-day waiting period for claimants to receive payment in workers' compensation cases settled with the State of Illinois. Following the Respondent cancelling a hearing in the Anderson case, the Respondent spoke with Omachi. It was alleged that the Respondent asked Omachi if she knew a certain person at Central Management Services (LeMasters) who could help Respondent get paid on her workers' compensation claim without having to wait the 180-day waiting period, and then told Omachi that, if the 180-day waiting period for Respondent's claim was reduced or waived, Respondent would give Omachi a setting for the Anderson case.

It was further alleged in Count I that the Respondent told Omachi she was considering asking attorney Tom Rich, who had several cases pending before the Respondent, to talk to LeMasters on Respondent's behalf. The Respondent presided at a docket call on August 4, 2010, during which she asked an associate of Rich if Rich had called LeMasters yet on Respondent's behalf. The Respondent then said that if the waiting period for payment in Respondent's case was reduced "then Teresa [Omachi] could try the Anderson case."

Count II of the Amended Complaint pertained to an e-mail the Respondent sent in reply to an e-mail from David Nelson, who was the claimant's counsel in the Anderson workers' compensation case. Nelson's e-mail, sent to opposing counsel Teresa Omachi and to the Respondent, stated that a witness in the case was being harassed by Department of Corrections' employees, and asked Omachi to do something to end the harassment. Before Omachi replied, the Respondent sent an e-mail to Nelson and Omachi, stating: "Let me be EXTREMELY clear: I will tear into these people like they have never seen. Penalties on death benefits would also not be a good scenario. These people are not helping anyone, and it needs to stop." It was alleged

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that the Respondent, prior to any hearing in the matter, demonstrated that she had prejudged the actions of the Department of Corrections employees.

Count III of the Amended Complaint pertained to the workers' compensation case of Illinois State Police Officer Matthew Mitchell. In 2007, Mitchell, while driving a police vehicle struck another vehicle head-on, resulting in the deaths of two people. At the time, he was responding to call and was driving at a speed of over 100 miles per hour. Just before the collision, Mitchell sent an e-mail to another officer and called his girlfriend on his cell phone. Mitchell pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless homicide. In September 2010, Mitchell filed a workers' compensation claim for injuries he received in the above collision. The case was assigned to the Respondent on her Belleville docket. Attorney Kerry O'Sullivan represented Mitchell, and Assistant Attorney General William Schneider represented the State Police. Mitchell's workers' compensation case generated a substantial amount of publicity.

On October 14, 2010, O'Sullivan and the Respondent exchanged e-mails pertaining to the Mitchell case, without sending a copy of the e-mails to Schneider. O'Sullivan's first e-mail to the Respondent on that date, said the State was disputing Mitchell's claim. The Respondent replied "seriously . . . I cannot believe they are bringing this on themselves." O'Sullivan replied "I think so too" and that the "defense appears to be that he was acting so recklessly it takes it out of ?arising out of'." The Respondent's reply to O'Sullivan stated, among other things, that "I agree he was reckless, but stupidity is no defense, and neither is contrib."

On October 18, 2010, the Respondent and O'Sullivan exchanged ex parte e-mails regarding the Belleville News Democrat newspaper being interested in Mitchell's case. One of the statements in the Respondent's e-mail to O'Sullivan was "[t]here is nothing I can do to keep them [reporters] out of a public hearing, but will be more than willing to do a special setting and

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an unknown place and time!" On December 8, 2010, following a conference call with O'Sullivan and Schneider, the Respondent scheduled the hearing in the Mitchell case for December 17, 2010, which was not a normal setting date for the Belleville docket. The location of the hearing was to be at the Workers' Compensation Commission office in Collinsville. The Respondent told O'Sullivan and Schneider that the place and time of the hearing should be kept secret. When the hearing commenced on December 17th, no member of the news media was present. However, about 10 minutes later, a reported arrived. After the hearing was completed, the Respondent instructed O'Sullivan and Schneider to say, if asked, that the reason for the special setting in the case was due to a scheduling conflict, which she knew was not true.

Count IV of the Amended Complaint alleged that, at various times in the years 2009 and 2010, the Respondent exchanged ex parte e-mail communications with attorney Caryn Nadenbush about workers' compensation cases pending before Teague, in which Nadenbush represented one of the parties. It was also alleged that the Respondent exchanged ex parte e-mails with attorney Elizabeth Barringer about workers' compensation cases pending before Teague, in which Barringer represented one of the parties. The comments in the e-mails pertained to the pending cases, including disparaging comments about Nadenbush's and Barringer's opposing counsel and a pro se claimant.

The Respondent filed a Second Amended Answer in which she admitted some of the factual allegations, denied others, and denied all of the charges of misconduct.

THE EVIDENCE

The Administrator presented the testimony of several witnesses, and the Administrator's Exhibits 1 through 7, and 9 through 34 were admitted into evidence. (Tr. 37, 94, 228-29, 357).

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The Respondent testified in her own behalf, presented the testimony of other witnesses, and Respondent's Exhibits 5, 6 and 7 were admitted into evidence. (Tr. 89, 232, 234-35).

Teresa Omachi

Teresa Omachi testified that she has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1996. She was previously licensed in California. She has been an assistant Illinois Attorney General for about eight years. (Tr. 29-31).

Omachi represented the correctional center, that is the State of Illinois, in the workers' compensation case of Jo Anderson v. Big Muddy River Correctional Center. Anderson was represented by attorney David Nelson. Both Mrs. and Mr. Anderson were correctional officers at Big Muddy. It was claimed that Mrs. Anderson was subjected to sexually explicit and harassing cartoons and signs at her work, and then committed suicide. The workers' compensation claim was that the emotional turmoil from being subjected to the foregoing conduct caused her to take her own life. The Respondent was the arbitrator assigned to the Anderson case, and hearings were conducted in 2009 and 2010. (Tr. 31-32, 45, 66).

While the Anderson case was pending, Omachi was aware that the Respondent had filed a workers' compensation claim. Omachi acknowledged that she provided the Respondent with information about the processing of the Respondent's claim. For example, Omachi advised the Respondent to send her medical record to Susan LeMasters at CMS. LeMasters is a claims supervisor and has settlement authority over claims by employees of certain agencies, including the Workers Compensation Commission. (Tr. 33-35, 38-39, 56, 68-70, 76; Adm. Ex. 5 at 3, 5). Omachi denied that she gave any legal advice to the Respondent. (Tr. 35, 40, 68).

The Anderson case was scheduled for hearing on a Thursday in early August 2010. At that time state employees, including arbitrators, were required to take a certain number of

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furlough days because of the State's budget problems. The Respondent took a furlough day on the day the Anderson case was scheduled for hearing. On August 4, 2010, the Respondent sent an e-mail to both Omachi and her opposing counsel, Nelson, saying that her "furlough days are going to be a problem for this [Anderson] case as it is a time consuming matter." Also on August 4, 2010, Omachi sent an e-mail to both the Respondent and Nelson proposing the date of September 8 for the hearing in the Anderson case. The Respondent then sent an e-mail to Omachi, without sending a copy to Nelson, saying she was going to call Omachi "on this." (Tr. 43-47; Adm. Ex. 3 at 4; Adm. Ex. 4 at 1).

On August 5, 2010, Omachi received a telephone call from the Respondent. During the telephone call, the Respondent said they were not going to be able to proceed on the Anderson case because of Respondent taking furlough days. The Respondent asked Omachi if the requirement of waiting 180 days after a settlement to receive payment from the State could be deferred. The Respondent then explained that she was under financial constraints, and asked Omachi "can [she] get" Susan LeMasters to waive the 180 day requirement, and Omachi replied "I don't know." The Respondent also said that, if Omachi could get the Respondent's case settled, the Respondent would have a special setting date for the Anderson case. (Tr. 47-51). Omachi testified that she understood the Respondent's comments to mean if Omachi was to arrange for a waiver of the 180-day delay in payment in the Respondent's workers' compensation case then the Respondent would arrange for a hearing in the Anderson case on a day the Respondent normally would use for writing decisions. (Tr. 90-93).

Also during their telephone conversation on August 5, 2010, the Respondent said she was "going to maybe have Tom Rich talk to Susan [LeMasters] about my case. Rich was an attorney who represented "a lot" of injured workers in southern Illinois. Omachi testified that she was not

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aware of any circumstance in which petitioners had received payment within 180 days of a settlement with the State. She acknowledged she had previously heard Tom Rich mention at a docket call that "sometimes he was getting his settlements paid sooner than 180 days." (Tr. 51-53)

Omachi also testified that she did not want a special hearing date in the Anderson case. She explained that she did not think the State was going to prevail and, thus there was no "big rush" to get the case resolved and the State to pay the award. (Tr. 53-54, 91-92). Omachi said she was surprised by the Respondent tying together "her claim being paid faster and providing hearing dates in Jo Anderson." (Tr. 54).

Following her telephone conversation with the Respondent on August 5, 2010, Omachi looked for her bureau chief, Mr. Riddle, but he was not in the office. She then spoke with a colleague, Julia Lawrence, about the telephone conversation, because "I don't know what to do about it." (Tr. 55) Omachi then sent an e-mail to LeMasters, asking if she could talk to LeMasters the next day "about Teague's case & Jo Anderson." LeMasters was not available the next day, but Omachi spoke with her during the following week. After speaking with LeMasters, Omachi meet with Mr. Riddle and Mr. Glisson, the assistant bureau chief, about the matter. Riddle asked her to prepare a memo to memorialize what was said during her telephone conversation with the Respondent. She prepared the memo. (Tr. 55-57, 80-82; Adm. Ex. 7).

On October 21, 2009, David Nelson, the attorney for Jo Anderson's widower, Vic Anderson, in the workers' compensation case, sent an e-mail to Omachi and the Respondent. In the e-mail, Nelson voiced concern about Vic Anderson being harassed by the posting of cartoons on the premises of the prison "by precisely the same individuals who caused Jo Anderson to kill herself some of whom, presumably, will be at the trial." Nelson concluded the e-mail by asking

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Omachi to "do everything you can to end this practice." (Adm. Ex. 9 at 2). Before Omachi replied, the Respondent sent an e-mail to Nelson and Omachi. In her e-mail, the Respondent said "Let me be EXTREMELY clear: I will tear into these people like they have never seen. Penalties on death benefits would also not be a good scenario. These people are not helping anyone, and it needs to stop." (Adm. Ex. 9 at 1). Omachi testified that she was "kind of disconcerted" and thought the Respondent's comments "suggested that she believed that these cartoons were being generated by somebody there and that harassment was continuing so I thought she had a predisposition about the case before we had even convened." (Tr. 59-62, 65-68).

Farrah Hagen

Ms. Hagen testified that she is 34 years of age, and has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2002. She began working at the Illinois Attorney General's Office in March 2010, and handles workers' compensation cases. (Tr. 95-96).

One of the cases in which Hagen represented the State was that of Jo Harper v. Warren G. Murray Center. Harper was represented by Kristy Cooksey, who was employed by attorney Tom Rich. Hagen and Cooksey appeared before the Respondent at a docket call in the Harper case in Mt. Vernon on August 4, 2010. They sat at a table facing the Respondent. While Hagen "was filling out stipulation sheets," she heard the Respondent ask Cooksey "whether Tom Rich had talked to Susan about [Respondent's] case yet." The Respondent added that she was "going to seek a waiver of the 180-day waiting period" for her settlement with the State in her workers' compensation case. Hagen then understood that the "Susan" the Respondent mentioned was Susan LeMasters, who worked at CMS and handled workers compensation cases for the State. The Respondent also said "if she could get that [waiver] then she wouldn't take furlough days on Thursday and then Teresa [Omachi] could try the Jo Anderson case." Hagen saw the

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Respondent look at her and smile while making the foregoing statement. (Tr. 97-103, 112-13, 116).

Hagen said she was shocked and uneasy by the statements the Respondent made at the docket call on August 4, 2010. She explained that "I'm trying a case in front of an arbitrator who is talking to my opponent about her personal work comp cases and that it's my understanding that that firm may be talking about representing her so that was my uneasiness." (Tr. 103, 107).

Sometime around the first of September 2010, Hagen's supervisor, Greg Riddle, called and asked her to report any unusual conversations she had with the Respondent regarding the Respondent's workers' compensation case. Hagen then told Riddle about what the Respondent said at the docket call in the Harper case on August 4, 2010. (Tr. 105-106, 108-11).

Finally, Hagen said she was not aware of any waivers that had been given as to the 180-day waiting period for payment by the State in settled cases. (Tr. 117).

Kristina Cooksey

Ms. Cooksey testified that she is 36 years of age. She has worked for attorney Thomas Rich since she was admitted to the practice law in Illinois in November 2009. Rich represents petitioners in workers' compensation cases. (Tr. 121-22).

On August 4, 2010, Cooksey was present at a workers' compensation call in Mt. Vernon before the Respondent. About 2:00 p.m. on that date, Cooksey and her opposing counsel, Farrah Hagen, were seated at the table facing the Respondent. While Cooksey was preparing for trial, she overheard portions of a conversation between the Respondent and Hagen. She heard the names "Omachi" and "Nelson" mentioned, and heard them talk about scheduling. She also heard them "start discussing furlough days" and "Arbitrator Teague's case." At one point, the

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Respondent spoke to Cooksey and asked if Tom Rich had talked to Susan." Cooksey assumed that "Susan" was an adjustor with the State. (Tr. 122-30).

Cooksey was not aware of Rich having been involved in the Respondent's workers' compensation case, and said the Respondent did not become a client of Rich's firm. (Tr. 128, 135-36).

David Nelson

Mr. Nelson testified that he began practicing law in 1994 and is a partner in the law firm of Nelson and Nelson in Belleville. Most of his practice involves workers' compensation cases, (Tr. 270-71)

Nelson is the attorney for the claimant in the Jo Anderson workers' compensation case. He explained that the claim was brought by Jo Anderson's husband, Vic, after Jo committed suicide. The claim was that her suicide resulted from psychological trauma caused by her being harassed and intimidated at a correctional facility at which she was a guard. (Tr. 272-75) The Respondent was the arbitrator in the case, and Assistant Attorney General Teresa Omachi was the opposing counsel. On October 21, 2009, Nelson sent an e-mail to Omachi, with a copy to the Respondent. In the e-mail, Nelson said that Vic Anderson, who was also a prison guard, perceived that he was being harassed and intimidated by "the same individuals who caused Jo Anderson to kill herself." (Adm. Ex. 9 at 2). He explained that the purpose of his e-mail was to ask Omachi to get the harassment and intimidation stopped. The Respondent sent a reply to both Nelson and Omachi, stating "Let me be EXTREMELY clear: I will tear into these people like they have never seen. Penalties on death benefits would also not be a good scenario. These people are not helping anyone, and it needs to stop."(Adm. Ex. 9 at 1). Nelson said that he believed the Respondent's reply was appropriate, and that she had not pre-judged the case. He

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acknowledged that, at the time the above e-mails were sent, there had not been any hearing in the Anderson case. (Tr. 272-80, 296-97).

Nelson also testified that Omachi did not push the Anderson case forward for trial, and that it was not in Omachi's interest to do so. (Tr. 281, 283, 288).

Finally, Nelson testified favorably as to the Respondent's character. He described her judicial temperament, fairness, and honesty as superior and excellent. He also pointed out that the Respondent was active in and served on the board of CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate, a fundraising organization for the less fortunate. He said it was the Respondent's idea for CASA to provide backpacks, notebooks and other materials to school children who could not afford them. Nelson said the Respondent was also active in the bar association and charitable events. (Tr. 290-92).

Susan LeMasters

Ms. LeMasters testified by way of deposition on January 13, 2012. (Resp. Ex. 7).

She has been a supervisor in the Risk Management Division of Central Management Services for the State of Illinois since 1988. She is involved with the settlement of workers' compensation claims by employees of certain agencies. (Resp. Ex. 7 at 6-10).

In July 2010, LeMasters learned from Assistant Attorney General Teresa Omachi that Respondent Teague had a workers' compensation claim. Omachi sent e-mails to LeMasters in order to assist the Respondent file her claim. (Resp. Ex. 7 at 16, 33-37). LeMasters said that on August 12, 2010, Omachi came to her office and discussed a conversation Omachi had with the Respondent a few days earlier. According to Omachi, the Respondent told her to tell LeMasters that if LeMasters would give Respondent 22% loss of her right arm and not defer payment of the settlement, Respondent would then make a special setting to hear the Jo Anderson case, in which

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Omachi represented the State. Omachi also told LeMasters that Respondent said she was going to have attorney Tom Rich call LeMasters. LeMasters said she was offended by what Omachi told her, and did not want Rich or the Respondent to call her. LeMasters told Omachi that she (LeMasters) was going to report the matter to her supervisor, which she did, and instructed Omachi to make a report of her conversation with the Respondent. LeMasters typed a note of what Omachi told her "immediately after she left my office." (Resp. Ex. 7 at 17-20, 40-41, 57-59). LeMasters also testified that she never spoke with Rich or the Respondent in regard to the Respondent's claim. (Resp. Ex. 7 at 25-26).

LeMasters explained that, because of the poor financial situation of the State, payments for settlements were deferred for 180 days. She said that there had been occasions when more funds than anticipated had been received and on those occasions some settlement contracts were paid early. However, the deferment language was "always" included in the settlement contracts. LeMasters also said that she did not know who determined what cases got paid early. (Resp. Ex. 7 at 18-20).

Finally, LeMasters said that she did not care if the Jo Anderson case was given an earlier date for trial. The claim was denied as non-compensable, and there was no benefit to the State for getting the case to trial. (Resp. Ex. 7 at 43-45).

Greg Riddle

Mr. Riddle testified that he is 50 years of age and has been a licensed attorney in Illinois since 1988. He is an Assistant Illinois Attorney General, and has been the bureau chief for the workers' compensation bureau in Springfield since 1999. (Tr. 137-38).

In 2010, Assistant Attorney General Teresa Omachi brought to his attention a complaint regarding the Respondent in her capacity as arbitrator for the Workers' Compensation

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Commission. On October 21, 2009, the Respondent sent an e-mail to Omachi and her opposing counsel, David Nelson, pertaining to the Jo Anderson case. (Adm. Ex. 9 at 1). Riddle was asked about the problem with the Respondent's e-mail from his point of view. He said that arbitrators are "supposed to be a neutral party, not prejudging anything before they hear evidence" and "to me she's already making conclusions that some from the [Department of Corrections] is actually doing this without knowing the facts, and so that's what really concerned me about that e-mail. (Tr. 142-43).

Riddle was also asked about an e-mail the Respondent sent to the counsel in a workers' compensation case of petitioner Matt Mitchell. In her e-mail, the Respondent said "I am not really sure the reason for [ the State's] denial of claim given the stipulation made during the court of claims hearing" and the State "is opening itself up to penalties and a very public hearing." Riddle said the Respondent was again "making a pre-judgment as to the position that we were taking in the workers' compensation case." (Tr. 144-45). Riddle noted that the Respondent would not have received any exhibits, including the transcript of the court of claims proceeding, until the workers' compensation trial was held; however, her e-mail was sent prior to the start of that trial. (Tr. 153-55). After receiving the e-mail in the Mitchell case, a decision was made in the Attorney General's Office to file a complaint against the Respondent with the Workers' Compensation Commission Review Board. However, a complaint was not filed because the Respondent was removed as a Commission arbitrator. (Tr. 145-46). Riddle said it was his understanding that the Respondent was suspended indefinitely. Then, when appointments were required by a new statute, the Respondent was not appointed. (Tr. 167-68).

Riddle said that hearings in workers' compensation cases were sometimes conducted at "special settings" or "off docket." This means that they were not set on the official days of the

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docket that are assigned by the Workers' Compensation Commission. He said there is nothing improper about having a hearing at a special setting, and it may help move cases faster. (Tr. 147-48).

The workers' compensation case of Matt Mitchell received "some negative publicity." It involved a police officer, Mitchell, who struck and killed two girls with his patrol car. The hearing in the Mitchell case was conducted at a special setting. Riddle said, at the time, he was not aware that one of the reasons for the special setting was "to avoid some of the press coverage." On the day of the hearing in the Mitchell case, Riddle received a telephone call from a reporter, Beth Hundsdorfer of the Belleville News Democrat newspaper. She inquired about when the hearing in the Mitchell case was going to be held. Riddle told her that the hearing was scheduled for that day, and he provided her with the time and location of the hearing. When asked why he provided such information to the reporter, Riddle replied because "it's a public forum." (Tr. 148-50, 154-56).

Riddle said he called Farrah Hagen on about September 1, 2010, and asked her about what had occurred when Hagen and Krisy Cooksey appeared in front of Teague on August 4, 2010. Hagen then related what had occurred. Riddle acknowledged that Hagen did not come to him to report anything about the Respondent until he called her. (Tr. 152-53).

Kerry O'Sullivan

Ms. O'Sullivan testified that she is 37 years of age and has been a licensed attorney in Illinois since 1999. She is also licensed in Missouri. She currently works at a law firm in St. Louis and handles workers' compensation cases on behalf of claimants. (Tr. 177-78).

O'Sullivan previously represented Matt Mitchell in a workers' compensation case in front of the Respondent. Assistant Illinois Attorney General William Schneider was opposing

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counsel. Mitchell was an Illinois State Police Officer who was driving a police car at a high rate of speed, struck two girls who were sisters, and killed both of them. There was a "lot of bad publicity" about Mitchell. A trial involving Mitchell was previously held in the Court of Claims, but O'Sullivan was not involved in that proceeding. (Tr. 179-80, 197-98). On October 14, 2010, O'Sullivan and the Respondent exchanged ex parte e-mails in which they discussed the State contesting Mitchell's claim and the "compensability of this case." (Tr. 192-93; Adm. Ex. 13).

O'Sullivan said that the idea of trying to keep the press away from the hearing in Mitchell's workers' compensation case was first raised by the Respondent in an e-mail sent on October 18, 2010. The Respondent sent an e-mail to O'Sullivan at 11:20 a.m. on October 18, 2010, saying the "news Democrat was there today asking about the trial setting." At 1:36 p.m. on the same date, the Respondent sent another e-mail to O'Sullivan saying "There is nothing I can do to keep them out of a public hearing, but will be more than willing to do a special setting and an unknown place and time!" (Adm. Ex. 11 at 1). O'Sullivan spoke with Schneider about a special setting, but she did not recall if they discussed having a special setting to avoid the press. (Tr. 180-85, 195, 198).

On November 8, 2010, the Respondent sent an e-mail to O'Sullivan saying "I'd like to get the Mitchell thing on the books as quietly as possible." On December 1, 2010, the Respondent sent an e-mail to O'Sullivan and Schneider suggesting a conference call to set a hearing date in the Mitchell case. In that e-mail the Respondent said "again, I ask that neither of you discuss when the trial will be, only to avoid potential press coverage. It is a public hearing, but I do not believe we have to advertise when it is going to be tried." (Adm. Ex. 11 at 8). The Respondent, O'Sullivan and Schneider had a conference call at which they agreed on the date of December 17th for the hearing. O'Sullivan said, during the conference call, the Respondent told

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them they "weren't supposed to talk to the press or tell anybody when the trial was set." Schneider said he would have to inform his supervisor, Mr. Riddle, and could not control what Riddle told others. The Respondent replied that "if the trial date gets out and . . . I show up and it's a circus, that she would be pissed." (Tr. 185-87).

The hearing in the Mitchell case was held on December 17, 2010 at the Collinsville office of the Workers' Compensation Commission. About ten minutes after the hearing started, a reporter from the Belleville News Democrat arrived and was allowed to remain at the hearing. After the hearing was completed, the Respondent told O'Sullivan and Schneider that, if they were asked about why there was a special setting, they were to "explain that it was due to the scheduling conflicts of the parties." O'Sullivan testified that the special setting was not because of a scheduling conflict, but "it was set on a special setting to avoid media exposure." (Tr. 188-92, 195-96). The Respondent issued a decision and ruled against O'Sullivan's client in the in the Mitchell case. (Tr. 194).

William Schneider

Mr. Schneider testified that he has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1997 and worked in the workers' compensation division of the Illinois Attorney General's Office from 2004 to 2010. (Tr. 202-203).

He represented the State in the Matt Mitchell workers' compensation case. The Respondent was the arbitrator in the case, and Kerry O'Sullivan was opposing counsel. There a lot of media attention on the Mitchell case, and Mitchell "was getting bad press" (Tr. 204-205, 215-16).

Schneider said that, at some point, there was a discussion about having a hearing in the Mitchell case at a special setting. The first person to mention or suggest to him that there was "a

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press problem or press concerns" was O'Sullivan. (Tr. 206-207, 215-16). However, he did not know whether O'Sullivan or the Respondent first brought up the idea of avoiding the press by way of a special setting. (Tr. 207). During a conference call in early December 2010, the hearing was scheduled for a special setting on December 17, 2010. Schneider agreed to the special setting. During the conference call, the Respondent said she would "be pissed off if counsel leaked . . . to the press the date [of the hearing]." (Tr. 207-208).

About a week before the hearing, Schneider sent an e-mail to his supervisor, Greg Riddle, informing him of the date, time, and location of the hearing. (Tr. 218, 223-24). Shortly after the hearing started, a reporter for the Belleville News Democrat arrived and was present for the remainder of the hearing. (Tr. 216, 220). The reporter may have mentioned to the Respondent that she found out about the hearing from Riddle. After the hearing, the Respondent met with Schneider and O'Sullivan. Schneider said the Respondent was "extremely upset" and "went on a tirade" against Riddle. (Tr. 210-11). In February 2011, the Respondent issued a decision in favor of the State in the Mitchell case. (Tr. 221-23).

The Respondent

The Respondent testified that she was married from 1999 until her divorce in 2008. She has a 7-year old son. (Tr. 299, 333). She was admitted to the practice of law in 1998. She worked for an attorney in Belleville, and then took over his law practice while he was suspended for one year. She was appointed an arbitrator for the Workers' Compensation Commission in December 2003. (Tr. 299-300, 351). She was placed on administrative leave in February 2011. While on leave she continued to receive her salary. She resigned her position as arbitrator effective July 31, 2011. (Tr. 331, 345-47, 352).

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While working as an arbitrator, the Respondent suffered a repetitive trauma injury. She had surgery on her elbow in 2010. She filed a workers' compensation claim, which was tried about a month before her testimony in this disciplinary matter. The decision in her case is pending. (Tr. 344, 348-51). She pointed out that there is a 180-day waiting period for payment when a workers' compensation claim is settled with the State of Illinois. However, the waiting period is not applicable when a case is tried. (Tr. 348-49).

She said she has not practiced law since she resigned as an arbitrator, and has "no intention of acting as an attorney." She is currently on inactive status with the ARDC. (Tr. 331-32). She has decided to pursue a different career. She is attending school and doing an internship. (Tr. 332, 350-51). She explained that she has suffered a financial hardship as a result of the matters charged in the disciplinary complaint. She was unable to find a job and "will face the stigma from what the newspaper has done to me." She added that reporters "stalked my home for a photograph of me" and "my son was scared to death." (Tr. 332-33, 335).

The Respondent acknowledged that she engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional conduct while she was an arbitrator. She expressed "regret" and said she was "sorry" for her mistakes. (Tr. 310, 325, 329, 345).

Count I

The Respondent acknowledged that she had a telephone conversation with Assistant Attorney General Teresa Omachi in August 2010. However, she denied that she offered to move the case Omachi was handling Jo Anderson v. Big Muddy Correctional Center) forward if Omachi was able to obtain a waiver of the 180-day waiting period for payment in the Respondent's workers' compensation case. The Respondent further maintained that no such offer was made by her at any time. (Tr. 300-301). The Respondent also said that she had "no

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recollection" of having asked Kristine Cooksey, at a docket on August 4, 2010, if Cooksey's employer, attorney Thomas Rich, had called Susan LeMasters yet. She acknowledged, however, that it was "possible" she made such a statement. She explained that, at a docket in July 2010, Rich said he was getting paid faster on his cases with the State, and that if she made the above comment on August 4th, it "could have been in reference to a claim Rich had pending that needed to be settled or set." The Respondent denied that she ever intended to have Rich inquire about a waiver of the 180-day waiting period in her case. She also denied making any comment referring to the hearing dates for the Jo Anderson case at the docket on August 4, 2010. (Tr. 339-42).

The Respondent also testified that she never sought to speed up her own workers' compensation case or to seek a waiver of the 180-day waiting period for payment. (Tr. 338, 343-44).

Count II

On October 21, 2009, the Jo Anderson v. Big Muddy Correctional Center workers' compensation case was pending before the Respondent. On that date, David Nelson, the claimant's counsel, sent an e-mail to opposing counsel Teresa Omachi and to the Respondent stating that Jo Anderson's widower, a prison guard, was being harassed by Department of Corrections' employees, and asked Omachi to do something about it. At that time, there had not been any hearing or trial in the case. The Respondent sent a reply to both Omachi and Nelson stating: "Let me be EXTREMELY clear: I will tear into these people like they have never seen. Penalties on death benefits would also not be a good scenario. These people are not helping anyone, and it needs to stop. (Adm. Ex. 9 at 1).

The Respondent explained that her e-mail to Omachi and Nelson "was designed to accomplish one objective, to get the harassment to stop," but that she did not pre-judge the case.

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She pointed out that she did not have any information about the "cartoons" that were allegedly being used as the means of harassment and did not know who was drawing the cartoons. She acknowledged that "[l]ooking at the e-mail in a vacuum I could see how the Panel could see that or perceive it as a pre-judgment to the case." (Tr. 314-16, 353).

Count III

The Respondent acknowledged that she exchanged ex parte e-mails with attorney Kerry O'Sullivan in which they discussed the substance of a case O'Sullivan had pending before the Respondent. O'Sullivan and the Respondent were her friends. The Respondent testified that such e-mails were inappropriate, and that "on multiple occasions I made a mistake." (Tr. 309-10).

The workers' compensation case of Mitchell v. Illinois State Police was pending before the Respondent in 2010. The case received a great deal of publicity because Mitchell was a police officer who was driving his police vehicle at a high rate of speed and killed two young girls. Kerry O'Sullivan represented Mitchell and Assistant Attorney General William Schneider represented the State. The trial in the case was held before the Respondent at a special setting on December 17, 2010.

The Respondent testified that she did not recall who initially had the idea of holding the trial in the Mitchell case at a special setting in order to keep the press out of the hearing. On October 18, 2010, the Respondent sent an e-mail to O'Sullivan stating "[t]here is nothing I can do to keep them [the press] out of a public hearing, but will be more than willing to do a special setting and an unknown place and time." (Adm. Ex. 11 at 1). In an e-mail the Respondent sent to a court reporter on November 30, 2010, she wrote: "I need you to get some dates together for me that you are available in December to report the Mitchell trial in Collinsville. We are going to

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try and do it on the sly with no press." (Adm. Ex. 11 at 4). The Respondent said she regrets any part she had in attempting to keep the press out of the Mitchell trial. (Tr. 327-30, 338).

Count IV

The Respondent acknowledged that she exchanged ex parte e-mails (Adm. Ex. 23) with Caryn Nadenbush and Elizabeth Barringer, who were her friends and who were also attorneys representing parties in cases pending before the Respondent. The Respondent said that such e-mails were inappropriate and not professional. In some of the e-mails, comments were made about another attorney being "an idiot" for getting sunburned, an attorney being "an ass," and another attorney being "annoying and a bad lawyer." (Adm. Ex. 23 at 2, 5, 11-12). The Respondent said that, although the foregoing type comments did not pertain to the substance of a case, they were inappropriate. (Tr. 322-27, 337-38). In ex parte e-mails the Respondent exchanged with Nadenbush on January 29, 2010, they talked about the substance of a pending case Pound v. Henderson Trucking, which was "huge mistake" and "very inappropriate." (Tr. 326; Adm. Ex. 23 at 5).

The Respondent acknowledged that there were times when she "would communicate with attorneys one on one as part of a pretrial to explain to them the value or problems in their case." She testified that the foregoing practice was inappropriate. (Tr. 317-18). On May 12, 2010, Nadenbush sent an e-mail to the Respondent and asked what the Respondent thought a "bilateral thoracic syndrome is worth." Thereafter, the Respondent replied and provided her opinion as to the value of such a case to Nadenbush. They also exchanged information that the claimant "had full duty release," the "problem seems to have started following an auto accident," and there was "surgery." (Adm. Ex. 19). At the time of the exchange of e-mails, Nadenbush represented the employer in a case pending before the Respondent Croghan v. Walgreens, which

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involved a bilateral thoracic syndrome injury. The Respondent testified that she did not know Nadenbush was asking her about a case pending before the Respondent. The Respondent acknowledged she did not ask Nadenbush if her inquiry pertained to a case pending before the Respondent. (Tr. 318-21, 339).

Linda Williams

Mrs. Williams testified that she was a school teacher for 31 years. She first met the Respondent in 1987 when the Respondent was one of her classes in high school. They have remained friends. (Tr. 236-37).

Williams voiced the opinion that the Respondent is "very sincere and very truthful," and "a very hard, intense worker." Williams also testified that the Respondent has been involved in various community activities, including the Rotary Club, an organization that distributes school supplies to underprivileged children, and a dyslexia learning center for children. (Tr. 238-41).

Thomas Margolis

Mr. Margolis testified that he has been handling workers' compensation cases for 18 years. He said he attended every docket in southern Illinois during that period, and he described the workers' compensation system in southern Illinois. (Tr. 246-49).

Margolis first met the Respondent when she became an arbitrator in 2003, and he had numerous cases in front of her. He said that the Respondent made herself available to attorneys in order to expedite litigation and that her primary focus was to get the injured workers taken care of. He also said he never observed or experienced any problem in regard to the Respondent's veracity, and he thought her demeanor was very good. He further stated that the Respondent was "a very fair and very reasonable arbitrator." (Tr. 249, 260, 263, 265).

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Darren Keith Short

Mr. Short's testimony from the case of In re Nadenbush, 2011PR00077, was admitted into evidence. (Tr. 94; Adm. Ex. 24).

Short testified that he represented the petitioner in the workers' compensation case of Blakemore v. Walgreens. The Respondent was the arbitrator in that case, and Nadenbush was the opposing counsel. (Adm. Ex. 24 at 1-3, 8)

On May 27, 2009, Nadenbush sent an ex parte e-mail to the Respondent, stating that "Keith Short refuses to discuss settlement with me and is pushing to finish the trial on 6/3. I don't have a problem with that, but can we get scheduled first." She further stated in the e-mail "I think I told you he demanded $50K, for full and final before lunch last trial day, then wouldn't accept it after lunch. Then he upped his demand to $80K, but said he hadn't talked to his client yet. WTF??." The Respondent replied, also in an ex parte e-mail, that "he's clearly jerking you around. You can go first on Wednesday, no problem." (Adm. Ex. 24 at 5-6; Adm. Ex. 17 at 2).

Short said that he concurred in advance for Nadenbush to contact the Respondent concerning scheduling, and was not offended that he did not receive a copy of her e-mail to the Respondent. He also said he already knew everything that was mentioned in the e-mail. He acknowledged the Respondent was not previously aware that he increased his demand from $50,000 to $80,000. He further stated that he was not offended by the Respondent's reply to Nadenbush. (Adm. Ex. 24 at 6-7, 13-15).

The Blakemore case was settled after one day of trial for the amount of $44,900. Short said that the above e-mails between Nadenbush and the Respondent had nothing to do with how the case was resolved. (Adm. Ex. 24 at 1-3, 8-10, 14).

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Lindsey Rakers

Ms. Rakers' testimony from the case of In re Nadenbush, 2011PR00077, was admitted into evidence. (Tr. 94; Adm. Ex. 25).

She testified that she was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 2002, and is also licensed in Missouri. In 2009, she represented the petitioner in the workers' compensation case of Pound v. Henderson Trucking. Pound was a truck driver who claimed injuries to his neck and back. At that time, she had been handling workers' compensation cases for less than year. Nadenbush represented Pound's employer, and the Respondent was the arbitrator in the case. The case was ultimately settled in May 2010, and the Respondent approved the settlement agreement on July 1, 2010. (Adm. Ex. 25 at 4-5, 9, 16-17, 22-23).

On March 31, 2010, Rakers sent an e-mail to Nadenbush stating "I have authority to demand 30% MAW [man as whole]. Let me know." Nadenbush forwarded Rakers' e-mail to the Respondent, without sending a copy to Rakers, and stated "She's kidding right?" The Respondent replied "??." Nadenbush then sent another e-mail to the Respondent and said "I mean, it's a back sprain." The Respondent replied "minus like 25." Finally, Nadenbush told the Respondent "That's what I was thinking." (Adm. Ex. 25 at 6-8, 27-28; Adm. Ex. 18 at 1).

Rakers testified that she did not give permission for Nadenbush to forward Rakers' e-mails to the Respondent, and that she learned of the exchange of the above e-mails between Nadenbush and the Respondent after the Pound case had settled. She was surprised by the e-mails. She talked with her "boss" at the law firm where she works and with an attorney at the ARDC about what her obligations were, in light of the e-mails. (Adm. Ex. 25 at 6-7, 9-11).

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Fritz Levenhagen

Mr. Levenhanen's testimony from the case of In re Nadenbush, 2011PR00077, was admitted into evidence. (Tr. 94; Adm. Ex. 26).

Mr. Levenhagen testified that he has been licensed to practice of law in Illinois since 1986, and that 80 to 90% of his practice consists of workers' compensation cases. (Adm. Ex. 26 at 2). He represented the petitioner in a workers' compensation case of Deanna Croghan v. Walgreens, which was filed in 2008. Attorney Caryn Nadenbush represented Walgreens and, by 2009, the Respondent was the arbitrator in the case. Croghan had a repetitive trauma claim, specifically a condition called thoracic outlet compression syndrome. He described the foregoing syndrome as a "very rare condition." He said he has handled hundreds of repetitive trauma cases, but only about eight thoracic outlet compression syndrome cases. Walgreens denied liability. Walgreen's claimed that Croghan's condition was the result of a car accident in 2003, which occurred five years before her work injury. Croghan's case is still pending. (Adm. Ex. 26 at 3, 5-10, 14-15, 28, 39).

The Respondent was still the arbitrator in the Croghan case in May 2010. Levenhagen said that he and the Nadenbush had appeared before the Respondent in the case many times, but they did not discuss the facts or the issues with the Respondent. He also said that it was not an older case as of May 2010, and the Respondent had made no effort to mediate the case. (Adm. Ex. 26 at 8, 38-40). On May 12, 2010, Levenhagen took the deposition of a medical expert, Dr. Thompson. The Respondent was present at the deposition, which commenced at 2 p. m. (Adm. Ex. 26 at 13-14, 32).

In February 2011, Levenhagen learned from a newspaper article that an attorney had sent the Respondent an e-mail on May 12, 2010, asking what a thoracic outlet syndrome case was

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worth. He subsequently obtained a copy of e-mails exchanged between Nadenbush and the Respondent on May 12, 2010. (Adm. Ex. 26 at 16-17). In the first e-mail from Nadenbush to the Respondent on that date, she asked "What do you think bilateral thoracic outlet syndrome is worth." The foregoing e-mail was sent at 1:12 p.m., less than an hour before the deposition of Dr. Thompson commenced. At 1:16 p. m., the Respondent replied "40 to 50 MAW [man as whole]??? Let me do a little checking?.. give me 10." Nadenbush replied "No hurry. She had full duty release, no problems and is actually better than before (the problem seems to have started following an auto accident)." The next e-mail from the Respondent to Nadenbush was sent on the following day, May 13, 2010, and stated "I did some research in my old decisions. It seems I have written them anywhere from 20 MAW up to 45 MAW. Was there surgery?" The Nadenbush replied, "Yes surgery." Levenhagen voiced the opinion that the foregoing e-mail exchange pertained to the Croghan case. (Tr. 29-33, 36-37, 47-51; Adm. Ex. 26 at 11-15, 18-19, 29-33; Adm. Ex. 19 at 5-6).

Levenhagen discussed the importance of some of the things mentioned in the ex parte e-mails between Nadenbush and the Respondent on May 12, 2010. As to the prior "auto accident," he said "if the arbitrator believes that the condition was caused by the accident, my client [Croghan] loses her cases and gets zero." He also said that a "full duty release" is significant because "someone that has restrictions is probably entitled to more compensation than someone that has a full duty release." (Adm. Ex. 26 at 13-14).

Levenhagen said his reaction to the above e-mails was that it was "inappropriate and wrong for Ms. Nadenbush to contact arbitrator Teague directly about Ms. Croghan's case without my knowledge and inject her primary defense in the case in front of the arbitrator

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without me knowing it." He filed a report about this matter with the ARDC in May 2011. (Adm. Ex. 26 at 17-18).

Nathan Lanter

Mr. Lanter's testimony from the case of In re Barringer, 2011PR00079, was admitted into evidence. (Tr. 94; Adm. Ex. 27).

Lanter testified that he represented the petitioner in the workers' compensation case of Brewer v. Walgreens. Attorney Barringer represented Walgreens and the Respondent was the arbitrator in the case. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 2-3, 23). On February 11, 2009, Barringer exchanged e-mails with the Respondent, without sending a copy of the e-mails to Lanter. In her e-mails to the Respondent on that date, Barringer said she and Lanter wanted to have conference call; pointed out that Brewer had four claims pertaining to injuries on her knee and ankle; and said she and Lanter hoped to try all the claims together. In response, the Respondent said they could have a conference call two days later, and that "I am not merging cases." (Adm. Ex. 27 at 5-7, 11-12; Adm. Ex. 21 at 1-2).

Lanter said, prior to the time the above e-mails were exchanged, he had agreed that Barringer could contact the Respondent and set up a conference call. The conference call was to be about the merging of Brewer's claims. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 18-19). He also said that the fact he was not copied on the above e-mails "doesn't bother" him. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 8). He explained that he and Barringer had previously informed the Respondent at docket calls about the issues in the Brewer case. For example, they informed the Respondent that Brewer had "injuries to both her ankle and knee;" the injuries "were proceeding under different workers' compensation [case] numbers;" there were "issues involving treatment," "where treatment was going," "whether or not [the employer] would pay for treatment; and "what was being done to resolve that conflict."

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Thus, the Respondent had a "certain amount of familiarity with this case" from Lanter and Barringer having appeared before her. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 8-11).

After the above e-mails were exchanged, a conference call was held. Lanter had the opportunity to present his argument in favor of merging the cases during the conference call. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 16, 22). A trial was held before the Respondent in 2010, and the case is presently pending on appeal in the circuit court. Lanter still represents Brewer. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 23-25).

Chris Gore

Mr. Gore's testimony from the case of Barringer, 2011PR00079, was admitted into evidence. (Tr. 94; Adm. Ex. 28).

Gore testified that he represented the petitioner, in the workers' compensation case of Brenda Stewart v. Addus. Attorney Barringer represented Addus, and the Respondent was the arbitrator for the case. (Adm. Ex. 28 at 1, 15). Gore sent a letter requesting a continuance to the Respondent on August 23, 2010. Because of a clerical error, the letter was addressed to Arbitrator Dibble, rather than to the Respondent. (Adm. Ex. 28 at 2-3, 7). Gore said that he was not aware, while the Stewart case was pending before the Respondent, that Barringer and the Respondent had exchanged e-mails in which they discussed his continuance letter. Specifically, he was not aware that the Respondent stated to Barringer that Gore's letter was "poorly written" and that Gore was a "dumb ass." Likewise, he was not aware that Barringer replied that Gore's continuance letter was "embarrassingly terrible." (Adm. Ex. 28 at 3-4, 8, 16; Adm. Ex. 23 at 15-16).

Gore said that, if he had been aware of the above e-mails, "I probably would have felt less comfortable trying that case with Arbitrator Teague." (Adm. Ex. 28 at 17). When he later

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learned of the e-mails, his first reaction was "whether that puts into question my reputation." He also said it was "offensive" that he was not included in the exchange of e-mails between Barringer and the Respondent, and it made him feel like "kind of an outsider." He further stated that, while "there is always a concern," he believes "most attorneys that I've dealt with that know me . . . think I am a good attorney and do a good job." (Adm. Ex. 28 at 5-6). The disputed issues in the matter were tried before the Respondent, and then a settlement was reached. (Adm. Ex. 28 at 12, 14-16).

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

In attorney disciplinary proceedings, the Administrator has the burden of proving the charges of misconduct by clear and convincing evidence. In re Winthrop, 219 Ill. 2d 526, 542, 848 N.E.2d 961 (2006). This standard requires a high level of certainty, greater than a preponderance of the evidence, but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Bazydlo v. Volant, 164 Ill. 2d 207, 213, 647 N.E.2d 273 (1995); In re Winter, 2009PR00090, M.R. 25311 (Sept. 17, 2012) (Hearing Bd. at 7).

In determining whether the burden of proof has been satisfied, the Hearing Panel has the responsibility of assessing the credibility and believability of the witnesses, weighing conflicting testimony, drawing reasonable inferences from the evidence, and making factual findings based upon all the evidence. In re Cutright, 233 Ill. 2d 474, 488, 910 N.E.2d 581(2009); In re Ring, 141 Ill. 2d 128, 138-39, 565 N.E.2d 983 (1991).

Additionally, an admission in a pleading is a formal judicial admission that is binding on the party making it, may not be contradicted, has the effect of withdrawing the fact admitted from issue, and dispenses with the need for any proof of that fact. Thus, when a respondent in a disciplinary matter admits in his or her answer some or all of the facts alleged in a complaint, it

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is unnecessary for the Administrator to present evidence to prove the facts so admitted. See In re Barry, 09 SH 5, M.R. 24439 (Mar. 21, 2011) (Hearing Bd. at 23); In re Hinterlong, 09 SH 46, M.R. 23811 (May 18, 2010) (Hearing Bd. at 9).

With the above principles in mind, and after carefully considering the testimony and exhibits, we make the findings set out below.

Count I

The misconduct charged in Count I arises from statements the Respondent allegedly made to Assistant Attorney General Teresa Omachi during a telephone conversation on August 5, 2010.

In August 2010, the Respondent was the arbitrator assigned to the workers' compensation case of Jo Anderson v. Big Muddy River Correctional Center. Teresa Omachi represented the correction center, that is, the State of Illinois, in that case. The Respondent had previously filed her own workers' compensation claim, which was pending in August 2010. Also, at that time, due to the State's financial situation, payments of workers' compensation claims settled with the State of Illinois were delayed for 180 days. Additionally, because of the State's financial situation, some State employees, including arbitrators, were required to take non-paid furlough days between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011.

The Anderson case would normally be heard on a Thursday at the Mt. Vernon docket, and a hearing had been scheduled for a Thursday in early August 2010. The Respondent cancelled the hearing because she decided to take a furlough day on the Thursday the hearing was scheduled. On August 4, 2010, the Respondent sent an e-mail to Omachi and her opposing counsel stating that furlough days were going to be a problem for the Anderson case because the case would be time consuming. On August 5, 2010, Omachi sent an e-mail to the Respondent

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and opposing counsel suggesting a hearing date in September. Later on August 5, 2010, Omachi received a telephone call from the Respondent. The content of the telephone conversation is in sharp dispute. Omachi testified that the Respondent asked whether Omachi could get a supervisor at CMS, Susan LeMasters, to waive the 180-day waiting period for payment if the Respondent workers' compensation case settled. According to Omachi, the Respondent also said that "if we can get my case settled, you can have a special setting for the Jo Anderson case." (Tr. 49). Omachi testified that she understood the Respondent was offering a special setting, on days normally used for writing decisions, in the Anderson case if Omachi arranged for a waiver of the 180-day waiting period for payment in the Respondent's workers' compensation case. Omachi further testified that, during the same telephone conversation, the Respondent said "I'm going to maybe have Tom Rich talk to Susan about my case." (Tr. 51). Mr. Rich is an attorney who handles a large number of workers' compensation cases in Southern Illinois, and he had previously mentioned in the presence of Omachi and the Respondent that "sometimes he was getting his settlements paid sooner than 180 days." (Tr. 52). The Respondent acknowledged that she had a telephone conversation with Omachi on August 5, 2010, but denied she ever offered to move the Anderson case forward in exchange for Omachi obtaining a waiver of the 180-day waiting period in the Respondent's case. The Respondent also denied that she ever asked or intended to ask Rich to inquire about the 180-day waiting period in her case.

When misconduct is based upon a conversation between two individuals, it is extremely important for us to know the exact words that were spoken and the context in which they were spoken. After observing and listening to the testimony of Teresa Omachi and the Respondent, and in view of the diametrically opposed testimony of what was said, we are unable to find by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent offered to trade a special hearing date in the

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Jo Anderson case in return for Omachi arranging a settlement of the Respondent's workers' compensation case without the 180-day waiting period for payment. We believe it possible that Omachi could have misunderstood or misconstrued what the Respondent said, or that the Respondent made misstatements or otherwise failed to communicate clearly. Thus, even though Omachi appeared to be honest and sincere, we cannot and do not find her version of the words spoken by the Respondent, nor the context in which they were made, was accurate. See In re Bertrand, 07 SH 30, M.R. 23087 (Sept. 22, 2009) (Hearing Bd. at 18-21); In re Harrison, 02 SH 84, M.R. 19281 (Mar. 15, 2004) (Hearing Bd. at 11-12, 27-28).

We note that Omachi did not prepare a record of what the Respondent said either contemporaneously or immediately after their telephone conversation. Also, Omachi testified that, after her conversation with the Respondent, she spoke with a colleague about the conversation. However, that colleague did not testify. We also note that there is no evidence that the Respondent ever followed up on her alleged offer to Omachi by making any inquiry about the status of the matter. There was no evidence that the Respondent ever contacted attorney Rich about assisting her in regard to her case or that Rich ever contacted anyone at CMS. In addition, it is clear from the testimony of both Omachi and Susan LeMasters that Omachi had no interest in getting the Anderson case to trial. In fact, David Nelson, who was Omachi's opposing counsel in the Jo Anderson case, testified that Omachi was not pushing for a hearing in that case and "didn't want it." (Tr. 288). The Respondent, an experienced arbitrator, would certainly be aware that counsel for the State would have no reason to seek or want a prompt trial in the Anderson case. Thus, the Respondent would have had nothing to gain by offering to do something for Omachi, when Omachi had no reason to want it done.

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It was also alleged in Count I that, at a docket held in Mt. Vernon, on August 4, 2010, the Respondent asked attorney Kristy Cooksey, an assistant of Tom Rich, "if Rich had called LeMasters yet on Respondent's behalf," and then said "if the waiting period for payment was reduced on Respondent's claim . . . Respondent would not take furlough days on Thursdays . . . and Teresa [Omachi] could try the Anderson case."

As we stated above, when misconduct is based upon a conversation, it is extremely important for us to know the exact words that were spoken and the context in which they were spoken.

Assistant Attorney General Farrah Hagen was present at the docket on August 4, 2010, and testified that, while she was filling out stipulation sheets before her case was called, she overheard statements made by the Respondent to Cooksey. Hagen said she heard the Respondent "asked Kristy Cooksey whether Tom Rich has talked to Susan [LeMasters] about her case yet." Hagen testified that she also heard the Respondent say "if she was able to get that [waiver of the 180-day waiting period], she would not take furlough days on Thursday and that Teresa could try the Jo Anderson case." (Tr. 100-101). Ms. Cooksey, on the other hand, testified that, on August 4, 2010, the "only thing [Respondent] said [to her] was has Tom [Rich] talked to Susan." (Tr. 127). We note that Cooksey, the person to whom the Respondent was speaking, did not mention the Respondent saying anything about Rich acting on her behalf or anything about not taking furlough days if the 180-day waiting period were to be waived in her case. (Tr. 127).

The Respondent testified that she had no recollection of having asked Cooksey if Rich had called Susan LeMasters. The Respondent acknowledged, however, that it was "possible" that she did so. She explained that, at a previous docket in July, Rich had mentioned that his clients were getting paid faster by the State, and that any inquiry she made on August 4, 2010, "could

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have been in reference to that [statement by Rich] . . . [and] to a claim he had pending that needed to be settled or set." (Tr. 339-41). Omachi also testified that Rich had previously made a statement about "sometimes he was getting his settlements paid sooner than 180 days." (Tr. 52).

We find the Respondent's explanation as to her inquiry about Mr. Rich contacting Ms. LeMasters to be plausible. We again note that there was no evidence that the Respondent ever contacted attorney Rich about assisting her or that Rich ever contacted anyone at CMS on Respondent's behalf. There was also some discrepancy between what Hagen heard and what Cooksey heard on August 4, 2010. For example, Hagen said she heard the Respondent ask if Rich had called "about [Respondent's] case yet." Cooksey did not mention any such comment by the Respondent. Moreover, Omachi testified that on the following day, that is, on August 5, 2010, the Respondent said she was "maybe going to have Tom Rich talk to Susan about my case." Certainly the Respondent would have had no reason to inquire about Rich having contacted LeMasters about her case on August 4, 2010, if she had not yet decided on August 5, 2010, to contact Rich about the matter, as indicated by Omachi's testimony. Additionally, Hagen testified that the Respondent mentioned not using furlough days on Thursdays in order to try the Anderson case, if the 180-day waiting period was waived in her case. However, Omachi testified that the Respondent mentioned on the following day about using a special setting, that is, a day she would normally use for writing decisions in order to try the Anderson case. We also note that Ms. Hagen made no report about the Respondent's comments on August 4, 2010, to her supervisor, Greg Riddle, until Riddle called her on about September 1st and inquired about any unusual conversation by the Respondent. (Tr. 105-106, 152-53).

After observing the witnesses mentioned above and listening to their testimony, we are unable to conclude by clear and convincing evidence, and we do not find, that the Respondent

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asked attorney Rich to assist her in regard to the 180-day waiting period; that she asked Rich's associate if Rich had contacted someone at CMS on Respondent's behalf; or that she said she would not take furlough days on Thursdays so that the Jo Anderson case could be tried, if the 180-day waiting period for period was reduced in her own case.

Therefore, based upon the above, we find that the Administrator did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent committed the misconduct charged in Count I of the Amended Complaint.

Count II

The misconduct charged in Count II is based upon an e-mail the Respondent sent to the attorneys in the worker's compensation case of Jo Anderson v. Big Muddy River Correctional Center on October 21, 2009.

Both Jo Anderson and her husband, Vic, were correctional officers at Big Muddy. The workers' compensation claim was brought by Vic after Jo committed suicide. The claim was that Jo had been harassed and intimidated, by way of sexually explicit cartoons and signs, at the correctional facility, resulting in psychological trauma that caused her to take her own life. Attorney David Nelson represented the claimant and Assistant Attorney General Teresa Omachi represented the State.

On October 21, 2009, Nelson sent an e-mail to Omachi, with a copy to the Respondent. In his e-mail, Nelson said that "Vic Anderson perceives that he has been the victim of frequent (if not constant) efforts to intimidate and harass. He believes that the activities have been carried on by precisely the same individuals who caused Jo Anderson to kill herself some of whom, presumably, will be at the trial." Nelson attached a cartoon as an illustration, and asked Omachi to "[p]lease do everything you can to end this practice." (Adm. Ex. 9 at 2). Before Omachi

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replied, the Respondent sent an e-mail to Nelson and Omachi. In her e-mail, the Respondent said "Let me be EXTREMELY clear: I will tear into these people like they have never seen. Penalties on death benefits would also not be a good scenario. These people are not helping anyone, and it needs to stop."

At the time the above e-mails were sent, there had been no hearing, and no evidence had been received by the Respondent. The Amended Complaint alleged that the Respondent's e-mail demonstrated she had prejudged the actions of the Department of Corrections employees.

The Respondent explained that her e-mail was "designed to accomplish one objective, to get the harassment to stop," and that at the time of her e-mail she had no information about the cartoons or who was drawing them. She denied that she had pre-judged the case. She also acknowledged, however, that "[l]ooking at the e-mail in a vacuum I could see how the Panel could see that or perceive it as a pre-judgment to the case." (Tr. 315).

Nelson testified that he believed the Respondent's e-mail was appropriate and that she had not prejudged the case. On the other hand, Omachi testified that she thought the Respondent's e-mail "suggested that she believed that these cartoons were being generated by somebody there and that harassment was continuing so I thought she had a predisposition about the case before we had even convened." (Tr. 61). Omachi's supervisor, Greg Riddle, testified that he was concerned about the Respondent's e-mail because arbitrators are "supposed to be a neutral party, not prejudging anything before they hear evidence" and "to me she's already making conclusions . . . without knowing the facts." (Tr. 143).

The Supreme Court has stated that "if the administration of justice means anything, it means a fair and impartial tribunal," and anything that "compromises the fairness and impartiality of the tribunal . . . prejudices the administration of justice. In re Weinstein, 131 Ill.

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2d 261, 269, 545 N.E.2d 725 (1989). The Court has also said that "the administration of justice requires a tribunal that is impartial in appearance, as well as in fact." In re Lane, 127 Ill. 2d 90, 106, 535 N.E.2d 866 (1989). See also In re Alexander, 146 Ill. 2d 83, 94-95, 585 N.E.2d 70 (1991),

In In re Powell, 126 Ill. 2d 15, 533 N.E.2d 831 (1989), the respondent assisted a judge in obtaining a loan by having a client post the collateral for the loan. The respondent appeared before the judge on a motion for the disbursement of funds, which was granted. The case was later settled. The respondent contended that his conduct was not prejudicial to the administration of justice because "his client deserved to win [the foregoing motion] on the merits." The Supreme Court rejected the respondent's argument, stating:

We refuse to read this phrase so narrowly. The administration of justice requires a fair and impartial tribunal. When a party or his attorney performs favors for a judge before whom the attorney or his client is likely to appear, the fairness and impartiality of the tribunal is compromised and the administration of justice is prejudiced."

Powell, 126 Ill. 2d at 27.

In In re Cutright, 05 SH 106, the respondent prepared tax returns for a judge, without charging the judge for such work. When appearing before the judge, the respondent did not disclose the foregoing work to opposing counsel or litigants. There was no showing that any ruling by the judge was based on his relationship with the respondent. Nevertheless, the Hearing Board stated that the "appearance of impropriety is blatant in such a situation," and found that the respondent's conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice. Cutright, 05 SH 106 (Hearing Bd. at 35). The Hearing Board's findings were affirmed by the Review Board (Review Bd. at 5) and the Supreme Court Cutright, 233 Ill. 2d at 481-83.

In re Greanias, 01 SH 117, M.R. 19079 (Jan. 20, 2004), the respondent filed lawsuits against Commissioners of the Industrial Commission and attorneys appearing before them,

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where there was no reasonable facts or evidentiary basis for the allegations in those lawsuits. By filing the lawsuits, the respondent was found to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. Greanias, 01 SH 117 (Hearing Bd. at 44-45, 57). The Hearing Board pointed out that "[b]y publicly charging fraud and corruption by the Commissioners of the Industrial Commission and attorneys who practice before that Commission, the Respondent acted to destroy public confidence in the Industrial Commission, the legal profession, and the administration of justice." Id. (Hearing Bd. at 65-66). The Supreme Court approved the Hearing Board Report.

We are unable to find by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent had prejudged or had a predisposition about the outcome of the Jo Anderson case. Nevertheless, by intentionally sending a carelessly and poorly written e-mail, the Respondent clearly implied she believed the allegations set forth in Nelson's e-mail, before she had heard any evidence on the matter. Consequently, the e-mail clearly compromised the appearance of a tribunal being fair and impartial. In these circumstances, we believe it was reasonable that counsel for the State was concerned about whether the Respondent had prejudged the case. Thus, the Respondent's conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice, and we so find.

We also find that the Respondent's conduct tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute, as charged in Count II of the Amended Complaint. We note that in In re Thomas, 2012 IL 113035, par. 92, the respondent was charged with engaging in conduct "which tends to tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770" (emphasis added). The Supreme Court reversed the Hearing Board's finding of a violation of Supreme Court Rule 770. The Court stated that Supreme Court Rule 770 is not a Rule of Professional

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Conduct, but is part of the rules that governs "Registration and Discipline of Attorneys." The Court then concluded that "one does not ?violate' Rule 770. Rather, one becomes subject to discipline pursuant to Rule 770 upon proof of certain misconduct."

In the case before us, the Amended Complaint, as modified at the start of the hearing by the granting of the Administrator's motion to strike (Tr. 7-10), did not charge the Respondent with a violation of Supreme Court Rule 770. Rather, she was charged with engaging in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute" without any reference to a rule. (Amended Complaint at par. 19(b)). Attorneys were charged with and found to have engaged in the foregoing misconduct prior to the adoption of Supreme Court Rule 771, which was later renumbered as Rule 770 in 2004. See In re Fisher, 15 Ill. 2d 139, 141, 153 N.E.2d 832 (1958); In re Huff, 371 Ill. 98, 20 N.E.2d 101 (1939). Consequently, we conclude that the Respondent may properly be found to have engaged in the misconduct charged in paragraph 19(b) of the Amended Complaint.

Based upon the above, we find that the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent committed the following misconduct charged in Count II of the Amended Complaint: (1) engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990); and (2) engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

Count III

The misconduct charged in Count III pertains to the Respondent's actions while she was the arbitrator in the workers' compensation case of Matthew Mitchell v. Illinois State Police. The Amended Complaint alleged that the Respondent improperly exchanged ex parte e-mails with

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the claimant's attorney and that she scheduled a special hearing in the case for the purpose of excluding the news media from the hearing.

Mitchell was an Illinois State Police Officer who, while responding to a call, drove his police vehicle at a high rate of speed and struck another vehicle head-on. Just prior to the collision, Mitchell sent an e-mail to another officer and called his girlfriend from his cell phone. As a result of the collision, two young girls, sisters, in the other vehicle were killed. Mitchell pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless homicide. He then filed a workers' compensation claim for injuries he received in the collision. The workers' compensation case was on the Belleville docket. There was a substantial amount of publicity about the case, mainly adverse to Mitchell. (Adm. Ex. 10).

Attorney Kerry O'Sullivan represented Mitchell in his workers' compensation case, and Assistant Attorney General William Schneider represented the State. As mentioned above, the Respondent was the arbitrator in Mitchell's case.

The evidence established, and the Respondent admitted, that she and O'Sullivan, were friends and exchanged e-mails regarding the substance of the Mitchell case, without sending a copy of the e-mails to Schneider. (Tr. 309-10). On October 14, 2010, O'Sullivan sent an e-mail to both the Respondent and Schneider, in which she said that the State was "disputing compensability" in the Mitchell matter. A few minutes later, the Respondent sent an ex parte e-mail to O'Sullivan, in which the Respondent said "Seriously ????????? I cannot believe they are bringing this on themselves." O'Sullivan sent an ex parte reply to the Respondent, saying "I think so too" and that the "defense appears to be that he was acting so recklessly it takes it out of ?arising out of'." The Respondent replied to O'Sullivan, also without sending a copy to Schneider, and said, among other things, that "[t]hen it is the adjuster calling the shots;" "[g]et a

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copy of that [court of claims] transcript, and I'd say they are bound by the stipulation;" and "I agree he was reckless, but stupidity is no defense, and neither is contrib." (Tr. 192-93; Adm. Ex. 13).

By engaging in the above exchange of ex parte e-mails, O'Sullivan clearly violated Rule 3.5(b) of the Illinois Rules of professional Conduct (2010) by "communicating ex parte with a judge or other official during a proceeding." See In re Sullivan, 2011PR00078, M.R. 24972 (Jan. 13, 2012) (petition to impose discipline on consent at 2-3). It is also clear that the Respondent, by participating in the exchange of those ex parte communications with Sullivan and by not attempting to dissuade Sullivan from engaging in the ex parte communications, affirmatively encouraged and knowingly assisted O'Sullivan in the ethical violation.

Additionally, the above e-mails discussed a substantive issue and the merits of the Mitchell case. O'Sullivan told the Respondent what the State's defense was going to be, and the Respondent clearly questioned the merit of the defense. After O'Sullivan agreed with the Respondent, the Respondent again commented on the merits of the defense, by saying "I agree he was reckless, but stupidity is no defense, and neither is contrib." Furthermore, the Respondent suggested a course of action by O'Sullivan, that is to "[g]et a copy of that [court of claims] transcript, and I'd say they are bound by the stipulation."

As we pointed out in Count II, the administration of justice requires not only "a fair and impartial tribunal" but also "a tribunal that is impartial in appearance, as well as in fact." Weinstein, 131 Ill. 2d at 269; Lane, 127 Ill. 2d at 106. It is clear that the fairness, impartiality, and overall integrity of workers' compensation proceedings are compromised when the arbitrator and the attorney for one party communicate ex parte about the case, and particularly where the arbitrator offers advice about the case to that attorney, without the knowledge of opposing

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counsel. By engaging in such ex parte communications, there was the appearance of impropriety, the integrity of the Workers' Compensation Commission proceedings before the Respondent was compromised, and the administration of justice was prejudiced. See Alexander, 146 Ill. 2d at 94-95; In re O'Sullivan, 2011PR00078, M.R. 24972 (Jan 13, 2012) (petition to impose discipline on consent at 2-3).

We also find that the Respondent knowingly and deliberately took steps to prevent the news media from attending the hearing in the Mitchell case on December 17, 2010. The Respondent was well aware that proceedings of the Workers' Compensation Commission are required to be open to the news media and the public. (Tr. 329). Yet, despite that fact, the Respondent, as established by the evidence set out below, took affirmative steps to prevent the news media and the public from knowing about and attending the hearing in the Mitchell case.

On October 18, 2010, the Respondent sent an ex parte e-mail to O'Sullivan stating that "[w]e should talk privately about the December trial of Mitchell. The News Democrat [newspaper] was there today asking about the trial setting." Sullivan sent a reply to the Respondent stating "I am certainly on board with any special setting to avoid any news." The Respondent sent another ex parte e-mail to Sullivan on the same date saying "[t]here is nothing I can do to keep them [reporters] out of a public hearing, but will be more than willing to do a special setting and [sic] an unknown place and time!" (Adm. Ex. 11 at 1).

On November 8, 2010, the Respondent sent an ex parte e-mail to O'Sullivan stating "my schedule is filling, and I'd like to get the Mitchell thing on the books as quietly as possible." (Adm. Ex.11 at 3). On November 30, 2010, the Respondent sent an e-mail to Tricia Smalley, a court reporter, stating "I need you to get some dates together for me that you are available in

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December to report the Mitchell trial in Collinsville. We are going to try and do it on the sly with no press." (Adm. Ex. 11 at 4, 8).

On December 1, 2010, the Respondent sent an e-mail to O'Sullivan and Assistant Attorney General Schneider. In this e-mail, the Respondent said she was thinking of having the trial in the Mitchell case on December 13th or 17th. She then added, "[a]gain. I ask that neither of you discuss when the trial will be, only to avoid potential press coverage. It is a public hearing, but I do not believe we have to advertise when it is going to be tried." (Adm. Ex. 11 at 8).

On December 8, 2010, the Respondent, O'Sullivan, and Schneider participated in a conference call, at which the hearing in the Mitchell case was set for December 17, 2010, at the Collinsville office of the Workers' Compensation Commission. This was a "special setting," in that it was not an ordinary setting date for the Belleville docket. Also during the conference call, the Respondent told O'Sullivan and Schneider they were not to talk to the press or tell anybody when the trial was set. The Respondent further told them that she would "be pissed off" if they leaked the date of the hearing to the press. (Tr. 185-87, 207-208).

Prior to December 17, 2010, Schneider informed his supervisor, Greg Riddle of the date, time, and location of the hearing in the Mitchell case. On December 17, 2010, a reporter from the Belleville News Democrat telephoned Riddle and inquired about the hearing in the Mitchell case. He informed her of the setting in Collinsville. The reporter went to the site of the hearing, arrived a few minutes after it commenced, and attended the remainder of the hearing. (Tr. 149, 188, 218, 220, 223). After the hearing was completed, the Respondent instructed O'Sullivan and Schneider that, if they were asked the reason for the special setting in the case, they were to say it was due to scheduling conflicts by the parties. (Tr. 190, 211-12).

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We note that hearings in workers' compensation cases are sometimes conducted at special or off docket settings, and that such settings, in themselves, are not improper. However, the special setting in the Mitchell case was improper because the Respondent's primary purpose for it was to prevent the news media from being present.

It has been stated that a public trial "is a safeguard against any attempt to employ our courts as instruments of persecution," and that the "requirement of a public trial is satisfied by the opportunity of members of the public and the press to attend the trial and report what they have observed." Nixon v. Warner Communications, 435 U.S. 589, 610 (1978). There is no doubt that the Respondent intentionally took affirmative steps to prevent the news media from knowing the date, time, and location of the hearing in the Mitchell case. Clearly, hiding proceedings from the news media or public, or the attempt to do so, raises serious questions about the integrity of the proceedings. By affirmatively seeking to prevent the news media from attending the hearing in the Mitchell case, the Respondent acted to destroy public confidence in Workers' Compensation Commission proceedings. Such conduct must not be tolerated.

Based upon the above, we find that the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent committed the following misconduct charged in Count III of the Amended Complaint: (1) knowingly assisted or induced another person to violate a Rule of Professional Conduct, in violation of Rule 8.4(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); (2) engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d); and (3) engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

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Count IV

The misconduct charged in Count IV of the Amended Complaint arises out of various ex parte e-mails the Respondent exchanged with attorneys Elizabeth Barringer and Caryn Nadenbush, both of whom were friends of the Respondent. At the time of the e-mails, the Respondent was the arbitrator in a workers' compensation case in which either Nadenbush or Barringer represented a party.

The Blakemore Matter (Amended Complaint, Pars. 43-44)

In May 2009, the Respondent was the arbitrator in the workers' compensation case of Blakemore v. Walgreens. Attorney Nadenbush represented Walgreens, and attorney Keith Short represented Blakemore.

On May 27, 2009, after a portion of the trial had been completed, Nadenbush sent an e-mail to the Respondent, without sending a copy to Short. In her e-mail, Nadenbush said that Short wanted to complete the trial on June 3d and that she had no problem with that. She also stated in the e-mail that "Keith Short refuses to discuss settlement with me;" "I'm not sure what Keith is wanting at this point;" "I think I told you he demanded $50K . . . then wouldn't accept it after lunch;" and "then he upped his demand to $80K, but said he hadn't talked to his client yet. WTF??" The Respondent replied in an ex parte e-mail to Nadenbush "I think we should just finish the trial and you say F him," and "he's clearly jerking you around." (Adm. Ex. 17 at 2).

Short testified he had agreed in advance that the Respondent could contact Teague about scheduling. He also said that, prior to the above e-mail, Teague was not aware of Short's demand for $80,000.

Rule 3.5(i) of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, which was in effect in 2009, prohibited an attorney in an adversary proceeding from communicating "as to the merits of

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the cause with a judge or an official before whom the proceeding is pending." It is clear that, at the time the above e-mails were exchanged on May 27, 2009, there was an adversary workers' compensation proceeding pending and that the Respondent was "an official before whom the proceeding is pending." It is also clear that the Nadenbush's e-mail went far beyond scheduling, and addressed opposing counsel's conduct and settlement demand. Her e-mail suggested, rather strongly, that the increase in Short's demand from $50,000 to $80,000 was without a reasonable basis, and then ended with the cryptic comment "WTF??" The Respondent then gave Nadenbush some advice regarding the case by telling her "I think we should just finish the trial and you say F him," By discussing the merits of the case (the amount of the possible award) and making disparaging comments about her opposing counsel, Nadenbush violated Rule 3.5(i). The Respondent, by participating in the exchange of those ex parte communications with Nadenbush and by not attempting to dissuade Nadenbush from engaging in the ex parte communications, affirmatively induced and knowingly assisted Nadenbush in an ethical violation.

We also find that the above exchange of ex parte e-mails between the Respondent and Nadenbush was prejudicial to the administration of justice. As we previously stated, the administration of justice requires not only "a fair and impartial tribunal" but also "a tribunal that is impartial in appearance, as well as in fact." Weinstein, 131 Ill. 2d at 269; Lane, 127 Ill. 2d at 106. When an arbitrator and the attorney for one party make negative or otherwise disparaging remarks about the attorney for the other party, a serious question is presented as to the neutrality of the arbitrator and the overall fairness of the workers' compensation proceeding before that arbitrator. See In re Barringer, 2011PR00079, M.R. 25465 (Sept. 17, 2012) (Hearing Bd. at 26).

Additionally, the appearance of neutrality and overall fairness of an arbitrator is seriously compromised when an arbitrator offers ex parte advice to the attorney for one of the parties.

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Clearly, the Respondent gave advice to Nadenbush by saying to her "I think we should just finish the trial and you say F him" and "he's clearly jerking you around."

Consequently, the Respondent's ex parte communications with attorney Nadenbush impugned the fairness, impartiality, and integrity of workers' compensation proceedings before the Respondent, and acted to destroy public confidence in them. As a result, the administration of justice was clearly prejudiced.

The Pound Matter (Amended Complaint, Pars. 44-45, 58)

In 2010 the Respondent was the arbitrator in the workers' compensation case of Pound v. Henderson Trucking. Attorney Nadenbush represented Henderson Trucking, and attorney Lindsay Rakers represented Pound.

On January 29, 2010, Nadenbush sent an ex parte e-mail to the Respondent stating that Rakers "is really starting to annoy me." The Respondent sent an ex parte e-mail back to Nadenbush stating that Rikers "is annoying and a bad lawyer, I think." (Adm. Ex. 23 at 5). On March 10, 2010, the Respondent sent an ex parte e-mail to Nadenbush saying "Her [Rikers'] f'n exhibits- I can't figure out where the god damn records are and I am pissed." Nadenbush replied "Tell me about it!! That was a cluster trying to go through those and cite stuff." (Adm. Ex. 23 at 9).

On March 31, 2010, Rakers sent an e-mail to Nadenbush saying "I have authority to demand 30% MAW [man as whole]. Let me know." Without Rakers' knowledge, Nadenbush forwarded Rakers' e-mail to the Respondent and stated "she's kidding right?" The Respondent replied in an ex parte e-mail "??." Nadenbush then sent another ex parte e-mail to the Respondent saying "I mean, it's a back sprain." The Respondent replied "minus like 25." Finally, Nadenbush told the Respondent "That's what I was thinking." (Adm. Ex. 18 at 1).

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Rule 3.5(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, which became effective on January 1, 2010, prohibits an attorney from communicating ex parte "during the proceeding" with the judge "or other official" unless authorized to do so by law or court order. A Comment to the Rule states that "[d]uring the proceeding a lawyer may not communicate ex parte with persons serving in an official capacity in the proceeding."

It is clear that the above ex parte communications were exchanged between the Respondent and Nadenbush during a workers' compensation proceeding, at which the Respondent was serving in an official capacity as the arbitrator. The ex parte communications were not authorized by law or court order. Consequently, Nadenbush clearly violated Rule 3.5(b). The Respondent, by participating in the exchange of those ex parte communications with Nadenbush and not attempting to dissuade Nadenbush from engaging in the ex parte communications, affirmatively induced and knowingly assisted Nadenbush in an ethical violation.

We also find that the above exchange of ex parte e-mails between the Respondent and Nadenbush was prejudicial to the administration of justice. In their ex parte e-mails, both the Respondent and Nadenbush complained about Ms. Rakers, the attorney for the other party, criticized her conduct and ability, made other disparaging remarks about her, and discussed the possible value of the case. As a result, the impartiality of the Respondent was compromised, along with the overall fairness and integrity of workers' compensation proceedings. Clearly, the administration of justice was prejudiced. See Powell, 126 Ill. 2d at 27; Alexander, 146 Ill. 2d at 94-95; O'Sullivan, 2011PR00078 (petition to impose discipline on consent at 2-3).

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The Croghan Matter (Amended Complaint, Pars. 47-48)

In May 2010, Respondent was the arbitrator in the worker's compensation case of Croghan v. Walgreens. Nadenbush represented Walgreens, and attorney Fritz Levenhagen represented Croghan. Croghan's claim was based upon a thoracic outlet syndrome injury, a very rare injury. (Adm. Ex. 26 at 6). Walgreens disputed the claim asserting that Croghan's injury resulted from an automobile accident. From the time the case was filed, through May 2010, the Respondent had not been informed about the substance of the case.

Levenhagen scheduled the deposition of an expert witness, Dr. Thompson, for 2:00 p.m. on May 12, 2010. Nadenbush attended that deposition. At 1:12 p.m. on May 12, 2010, Nadenbush sent an ex parte e-mail to the Respondent asking "what do you think bilateral thoracic syndrome is worth." At 1:16 p. m., the Respondent replied "40 to 50 MAW [man as whole]??? Let me do a little checking?.. give me 10." Nadenbush sent another ex parte e-mail to the Respondent at 1:19 p.m., saying "No hurry. She had full duty release, no problems and is actually better than before (the problem seems to have started following an auto accident)." (Adm. Ex. 19 at 2). The next ex parte e-mail from the Respondent to Nadenbush was the following morning, and stated "I did some research in my old decisions. It seems I have written them anywhere from 20 MAW up to 45 MAW. Was there surgery?" Nadenbush replied "Yes surgery." Finally, the Respondent replied "I think 20/25 would probably be on par." (Adm. Ex. 19 at 3, 5).

The Respondent testified that, at the time of the above e-mails, she did not know Nadenbush was asking her about a case pending before the Respondent. However, the Respondent acknowledged that she did not ask Nadenbush if the inquiry about a bilateral thoracic syndrome injury pertained to a case pending before the Respondent.

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We find the evidence clearly and convincingly established that the above exchange of ex parte e-mails between Nadenbush and the Respondent on May 12 and 13, 2010, pertained specifically to the Croghan case. It strains our credulity to believe that the Respondent actually thought Nadenbush was merely inquiring about a hypothetical case involving a rare injury or a case pending before another arbitrator. Also, when an attorney makes an inquiry about the value of a workers' compensation case, the arbitrator has the affirmative duty to make sure the inquiry does not pertain to a case pending before that arbitrator. This is particularly true in this case, where the attorney making the inquiry had cases before the Respondent on a routine basis.

Nadenbush clearly violated Rule 3.5(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional (2010) by her ex parte e-mails with the Respondent on May 12 and 13, 2010.

The Respondent, by participating in the exchange of those ex parte communications with Nadenbush and by not attempting to dissuade Nadenbush from engaging in the ex parte communications, affirmatively induced and knowingly assisted Nadenbush in an ethical violation.

We also find that the Respondent engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice. We note that when Nadenbush's opposing counsel in the Croghan case, Mr. Levenhagen, learned of the above ex parte e-mails, about nine months later. His reaction was that it was "inappropriate and wrong for Ms. Nadenbush to contact arbitrator Teague directly about Ms. Croghan's case without my knowledge and inject her primary defense in the case in front of the arbitrator without me knowing it." Levenhager's reaction was certainly a reasonable one. As we discussed previously, when an arbitrator and the attorney for one party communicate ex parte and discuss the facts and possible value of a pending case, there is a

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serious question about the neutrality of the arbitrator and the overall fairness of the worker's compensation proceedings before that arbitrator.

The Case No. 36 Matter (Amended Complaint, Pars. 49-50)

On October 28, 2010, a legal assistant in the law firm of Hassakis & Hassakis, sent an e-mail to attorney Nadenbush with a copy to the Respondent, in regard to a Mt. Vernon Case, Docket No. 36. The e-mail stated that "[o]ur goal would be to resolve the cases by year's end." Nadenbush then sent an ex parte e-mail to the Respondent on the same date stating "that won't happen. It's already November. I have no records and no settlement demand. Not to mention, I've been waiting three months for a response to an offer I made on another case. Think early spring." A few minutes later, the Respondent replied by ex parte e-mail to Nadenbush that "I think I will force a trial before early spring." In a subsequent e-mail on the same date, Nadenbush referred to her opposing counsel as "Mark." (Adm. Ex. 20 at 3). It is clear from the foregoing e-mails that the Respondent was the arbitrator in the workers' compensation case referred to as No. 36, attorney Mark Hassakis represented one party, and Nadenbush represented the other party.

The Respondent, in her Second Amended Answer, admitted that the above e-mails were exchanged, but added that she "denies that she knew that some of the e-mails related to cases pending before her." (Second Amended Answer, pars. 49 and 50). The Respondent cannot deny she knew case No. 36 was pending before her in light of the plain language in the e-mails. There would have been no reason for Nadenbush to tell the Respondent that the case would not be tried before spring, if the case was not pending before the Respondent. Also, the Respondent's reply that she "will force a trial" clearly shows that Respondent knew the matter was before her.

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Based upon reasons we previously stated, we find Nadenbush violated Rule 3.5(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional (2010) by her ex parte e-mails with the Respondent on October 28, 2010. The Respondent, by participating in the exchange of those ex parte communications with Nadenbush and by not attempting to dissuade Nadenbush from engaging in the ex parte communications, affirmatively induced and knowingly assisted Nadenbush in an ethical violation.

Also for reasons we previously stated, we also find that the Respondent engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice. In the ex parte e-mails exchanged between the Respondent and Nadenbush on October 28, 2010, there were disparaging comments about Nadenbush's opposing counsel. Also, Nadenbush and the Respondent discussed a trial by early spring without including the opposing counsel in the discussion. Such ex parte e-mails present a serious question about the neutrality of the arbitrator and the overall fairness of the worker's compensation proceedings before that arbitrator.

The Brewer Matter (Amended Complaint, Pars 51-53)

In February 2009, the Respondent was the arbitrator in the workers' compensation case of Brewer v. Walgreens. Elizabeth Barringer represented Walgreens, and attorney Nate Lanter represented Brewer.

On February 11, 2009, the Respondent and Barringer exchanged ex parte e-mails pertaining to the Brewer case. In her initial e-mail, Barringer said she and Lanter wanted to schedule a conference call with the Respondent on the following day, a Thursday, to discuss the case, because Lanter would not be unable to attend the upcoming docket call the following week. Barringer's e-mail also stated that Brewer has "four claims (2 on the left knee and 2 on the left ankle)." The Respondent replied that a conference call could be held on Friday, but asked if it

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could wait until the next Tuesday. Barringer replied that a conference call on Friday "works," and asked if the Respondent was expecting the case to be tried or settled next week. The Respondent replied that one case will be tried, both if they want, and that Lanter needs to pick a trial day. She also asked if this was an N&E [nature and extent] case. Barringer replied, in part, "no, one of the two surgeries has been disputed;" "another issue are the bills themselves because [Brewer was] treated at the same facility for the knee and ankle so the bills have been merged together;" and "something we wanted to talk to you about [is that] we were hoping to try all claims together." The Respondent replied that they could do a conference call on Friday and that "I am not merging the cases;" that the knee case will be tried or I will have K's in hand next week;" "it will be someone's job to sort the bills out;" and "[e]ven if we tried them together, I could say yes to knee and no to ankle and still have the problem." (Adm. Ex. 21 at 1-2).

Lanter testified that the fact he was not copied on the above e-mails "doesn't bother" him. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 8). He explained that, prior to the exchange of the above e-mails, he had agreed that Barringer could contact the Respondent and set up a conference call, which was to pertain to the merging of Brewer's claims. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 18-19). He also said that at docket calls he and Barringer had previously informed the Respondent about the issues in the Brewer case, and that the Respondent had a "certain amount of familiarity with this case." (Adm. Ex. 27 at 8-11). Lanter further testified that there was a conference call at which he had the opportunity to present his argument in favor of merging the cases. (Adm. Ex. 27 at 16, 22).

We are unable to find clear and convincing evidence that the above exchange of ex parte e-mails in the Brewer case constituted misconduct as charged in the Amended Complaint based, in part, on Mr. Lanter's testimony. The information Barringer provided to the Respondent in the e-mails was reasonably necessary to explain the request for the conference call. Also, Lanter

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testified that the information disclosed to the Respondent had already been disclosed to her at previous docket calls. Lanter further testified that he had no "problem" with the exchange of the e-mails. Thus, the subjects discussed in the e-mails between Barringer and the Respondent were those that attorney Lanter had agreed Barringer could communicate to the Respondent.

Additionally, Rule 3.5(i) of the Rules of Professional Conduct (1990), which was applicable in 2009, prohibited a lawyer from communicating "as to the merits of the case" with a judge or an official before whom an adversary proceeding is pending. Although the e-mails refer to "issues" in the case, they did not discuss the "merits" of the case. Consequently, we do not believe that Barringer violated Rule 3.5(i) or that the Respondent assisted or induce Barringer to violate an ethical rule. See Barringer, 2011PR00079 (Hearing Bd. at 15-17).

In light of the above, we are also unable to find by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in the Brewer matter.

The Pro Se Claimant Matter (Amended Complaint, Pars. 54-56)

On September 1, 2010, attorney Barringer and the Respondent exchanged the following ex parte e-mails pertaining to an unnamed person who was acting pro se in a workers' compensation matter.

Barringer's initial e-mail to the Respondent on September 1, 2010, stated "[d]on't forgot about my pro se from hell who will be dead last in the pro se line. She told me yesterday that she intends to ?fight with everyone' at the docket. I'm seriously about to say screw her and instruct the insurance company to close her file." (Adm. Ex. 22 at 1). Barringer sent another e-mail to the Respondent on the same date, saying "[c]razy pro se is a no go for Tuesday. She went off the hook this morning and is unwilling to be cooperative to a pre-trial. So her claim has been closed [until] she obtains an attorney." The Respondent replied "[a]ll you can hope now is that she

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doesn't get an atty and the statute runs. Stupid people kill me." Finally, Barringer sent another e-mail to the Respondent saying "[n]o one is going to touch her case after what we offered her because there is no way they would be able to collect a fee. Plus she's insane." (Adm. Ex. 22 at 4).

It is apparent from the above e-mails that Barringer was the attorney for the insurance company in the unnamed person's matter, and that the case would be in front of the Respondent. It also appears that the unnamed person was negotiating with the insurance company at the time e-mails were exchanged. We note that Barringer said that the insurance company had closed the unnamed person's file.

It is charged in the Amended Complaint that the Respondent assisted or induced Barringer to violate Rule 3.5(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010). Rule 3.5(b), effective January 1, 2010, prohibits certain ex parte communications with a judge or other official "during the proceeding." However, we are unable to find by clear and convincing evidence that the unnamed person had filed an application for adjustment of claim with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission or that a case involving the unnamed person was on the Respondent's docket when the e-mails were exchanged. Thus, there is insufficient proof that Barringer violated Rule 3.5(b) by communicating ex parte with the Respondent during a "proceeding." There is, likewise, insufficient proof that the Respondent assisted or induced Barringer to violate Rule 3.5 (b). See Barringer, 2011PR00079 (Hearing Bd. at 22).

Nevertheless, we find that the above ex parte e-mails between the Respondent and Barringer are clearly prejudicial to the administration of justice. It was anticipated by both of them that the unnamed person's case would ultimately come before the Respondent in her position as arbitrator. Their ex parte e-mails contained very derogatory and negative comments

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about the person acting pro se. For example, Barringer referred to the pro se person as being "from hell," "crazy," "unwilling to be cooperative," and "insane." The Respondent referred to the unnamed person as "stupid," and implicitly agreed with Barringer's comments about her. The ex parte e-mails created the appearance that the arbitrator was not neutral or impartial in light of the views expressed about the pro se person. See Barringer, 2011PR00079 (Hearing Bd. at 18-19).

The White v. Xenia Matter(Amended Complaint, Par. 58)

On August 2, 2010, attorney David Jerome sent an e-mail to the Respondent and to James Telhorst, in regard to depositions in the workers' compensation case of White v. Xenia. In his e-mail, Jerome mentioned that "I am completely sunburned" and that "SPF 70 works until you remain in a pool with your daughters for 4 hours straight." The Respondent, in an ex parte communication, forwarded Jerome's e-mail to Barringer with the comments "in case you cared . . . who doesn't re-apply sunscreen?" Barringer sent an ex parte reply to the Respondent saying "Idiot. I bet he looks like a lobster and will be walking stiff and awkward b/c it hurts to move;" and "I think he's going for the sympathy factor. Hell, he even threw in a kid comment." (Adm. Ex. 23 at 2).

It is apparent from the foregoing e-mails that the Respondent was the arbitrator in the White v. Xenia case, but no evidence that Barringer was the counsel for any party in that case.

As a result, Barringer did not communicate with the arbitrator in a case in which Barringer was involved and did not make comments about an opposing counsel. Consequently, the evidence failed to prove that Barringer violated Rule 3.5(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010) or that the Respondent assisted or induced Barringer to do so.

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We further find that the comments in the above e-mails were not of such seriousness as to be prejudicial to the administration of justice or tend to bring the administration of justice or legal profession into disrepute. The comments were made in jest, and were not directed at Mr. Jerome's character or overall ability as an attorney. While the comments may have demonstrated a lack of good judgment, we do not believe they constitute an ethical violation. See Barringer, 2011PR00079 (Hearing Bd. at 22-23).

The Stewart Matter (Amended Complaint, Par. 58)

Attorney Chris Gore represented the claimant in the workers' compensation case of Stewart v. Addus. Barringer represented Addus, and the Respondent was the arbitrator in the case. (Adm. Ex. 28 at 1, 15). Gore sent a letter to the Respondent on August 23, 2010, requesting a continuance. Because of a clerical error, the letter was addressed to Arbitrator Dibble. (Adm. Ex. 28 at 1-3, 7, 15). The Respondent discussed Gore's letter in an ex parte e-mail sent to Barringer on September 1, 2010. In her e-mail, the Respondent said that Gore's "letter is poorly written," and referred to Gore as "a dumb ass." Barringer replied to the Respondent in an ex parte e-mail that "oh it was embarrassingly terrible." (Adm. Ex. 22 at 6).

It is clear that Barringer, by exchanging ex parte e-mails with the Respondent while the Stewart case was pending before the Respondent, violated Rule 3.5 (b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct (2010). The Respondent, by participating in the exchange of those ex parte communications with Barringer and by not attempting to dissuade Barringer from engaging in the ex parte communications, affirmatively induced and knowingly assisted Barringer in an ethical violation.

In her September 1, 2010, e-mail the Respondent made ex parte comments to the counsel for one party, Barringer, that were disparaging as to the counsel for the other party, Gore, in a

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case pending before the Respondent. We note that attorney Gore, the target of the disparaging comments, said that if he had been aware of the above e-mails he "would have felt less comfortable trying that case with Arbitrator Teague;" that it was "offensive" that he was not included in the exchange of e-mails between Barringer and the Respondent; and it made him feel like "kind of an outsider." (Adm. Ex. 28 at 5-6, 17). As we have previously stated, such a communication raises a serious question regarding the impartiality of the arbitrator and the fairness of the proceeding, and serves to erode public confidence in workers' compensation proceedings. Consequently, the Respondent clearly engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and that which tends to bring the administration of justice and the legal profession into disrepute. See Barringer, 2011PR00079 (Hearing Bd. at 22-23).

An Unidentified Case (Amended Complaint, Par. 58)

Paragraph 58 of the Amended Complaint alleges that the Respondent called "opposing counsel an "ass" in an e-mail on May 27, 2009. On that date, Nadenbush sent an ex parte e-mail to the Respondent regarding the subject of "Clarissa Blakemore," in which Nadenbush referred to "Mark" as being "an ass." Later on the same date, the Respondent replied by ex parte e-mail and also identified the subject as "Clarissa Blakemore." In her e-mail, the Respondent said "[and] yes, Mark is an ass." (Adm. Ex. 17 at 1-2).

It was established, as discussed above, that Nadenbush's opposing counsel in the Blakemore case was attorney Keith Short. Thus, the e-mails on May 27, 2009, were not referring to Nadenbush's opposing counsel in the Blakemore case. However, the clear inference from the language of the e-mails between the Respondent and Nadenbush on May 27, 2009, is that "Mark" and Nadenbush were opposing counsel in case pending before the Respondent.

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By making disparaging comments about counsel for one of the parties in a case before her, the Respondent engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice. However, the e-mails exchanged between Nadenbush and the Respondent on May 27, 2009, did not discuss the merits of the case. Consequently, there is no clear and convincing evidence that Nadenbush violated Rule 3.5(i) of the Rules of Professional Conduct (1990), which was applicable in 2009, or that the Respondent assisted or induce Nadenbush to violate an ethical rule.

In summary, we find that the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent committed the following misconduct: (1) engaged in conduct that assisted or induced another to violate a Rule of Professional Conduct, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(2) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990), by reason of her conduct in the Blakemore Matter, paragraphs 43-44 of the Amended Complaint; (2) engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990), by reason of her conduct in the Blakemore matter, paragraphs 43-44, and the Unidentified Case, paragraph 58, of the Amended Complaint; (3) engaged in conduct that assisted or induced another to violate a Rule of Professional Conduct, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010), by reason of her conduct in the Pound matter, paragraphs 45-46, the Croghan matter, paragraphs 47-48, Case No. 36, paragraphs 49-50, and the Stewart matter, paragraph 58, of the Amended Complaint; (4) engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010), by reason of her conduct in the Pound matter, paragraphs 45-46, Croghan matter, paragraphs 47-48, Case No. 36 matter, paragraphs 49-50, Pro Se Claimant matter, paragraphs 54-56, and Stewart matter, paragraph 58, of the Amended Complaint; and (5)

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engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute, by reason of her conduct in all the matters referred to above

RECOMMENDATION

The purpose of the attorney disciplinary system is not to punish the attorney for his or her misconduct, but "to protect the public, maintain the integrity of the legal profession, and protect the administration of justice from reproach." In re Winthrop, 219 Ill. 2d 526, 559, 848 N.E.2d 961 (2006). In determining the appropriate sanction, we must consider the nature and seriousness of the misconduct charged and proved, and any aggravating and mitigating circumstances shown by the evidence. In re Gorecki, 208 Ill. 2d 350, 360-61, 802 N.E.2d 1194 (2003). In addition, we may consider the deterrent value of the sanction, the "need to impress upon others the seriousness of the misconduct at issue," and whether the sanction will "help preserve public confidence in the legal profession." In re Twohey, 191 Ill. 2d 75, 85, 727 N.E.2d 1028 (2000); Gorecki, 208 Ill. 2d at 361. Although each disciplinary case "is unique and must be resolved in light of its own facts and circumstances," the sanction imposed should be "consistent with those imposed in other cases involving comparable misconduct." In re Howard, 188 Ill. 2d 423, 440, 721 N.E.2d 1126 (1999); In re Chandler, 161 Ill. 2d 459, 472, 641 N.E.2d 473 (1994).

In this case, the Administrator requested a sanction of a suspension for at least three years. (Tr. 372). The Respondent argued that a suspension for 45 days is appropriate. (Tr. 379). We note that the Administrator's requested sanction was based upon all of the charges of misconduct, and that we found the misconduct charged in Count I of the Amended Complaint was not proved.

The Respondent's misconduct was of the most egregious nature. As found in Count II, the Respondent, as the arbitrator in the workers' compensation case of Jo Anderson v. Big

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Muddy River Correctional Center, sent an e-mail to counsel for both parties, in which she indicated that Department of Corrections personnel were responsible for harassing the claimant, as claimant's counsel asserted, before she had heard any evidence on the matter. By doing so, the Respondent gave the appearance of having prejudged an evidentiary issue, and compromised the appearance of a tribunal being fair and impartial. As we found in Count III, the Respondent engaged in ex parte communications with the attorney for one party in the workers' compensation case of Mitchell v. Illinois State Police, discussed a substantive issue in the case with that attorney, and advised that attorney to take a certain course of action. Also, as proved in Count III, the Respondent intentionally prevented the news media and the public from knowing about and attending the hearing in the Mitchell case. Finally, as we found in Count IV, the Respondent affirmatively induced and knowingly assisted two attorneys to engage in improper ex parte communications while each of them represented a party in workers' compensation matters pending before the Respondent. The ex parte communications included discussions about the merits of pending cases; disparaging comments about opposing counsel; and the Respondent giving advice to the attorney for one party.

The bedrock of our system of justice is the objectivity and neutrality of the official presiding at the proceeding, whether it be a judge or administrative officer. As pointed out above, the Supreme Court has stated that "if the administration of justice means anything, it means a fair and impartial tribunal;" anything that "compromises the fairness and impartiality of the tribunal . . . prejudices the administration of justice;" and "the administration of justice requires a tribunal that is impartial in appearance, as well as in fact." In re Weinstein, 131 Ill. 2d 261, 269, 545 N.E.2d 725 (1989); In re Lane, 127 Ill. 2d 90, 106, 535 N.E.2d 866 (1989). The Respondent's misconduct compromised her fairness and impartiality as an arbitrator, impugned the integrity of

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the workers' compensation proceedings before her, and served to destroy public confidence in the Workers' Compensation Commission.

Additionally, the Respondent's attempt to conduct a hearing at a time and location so as to prevent the news media from attending is very disturbing and clearly unacceptable. The right of the news media and of the public to have access to workers' compensation proceedings should not be infringed upon in any manner. By attempting to prevent the news media from attending a hearing, the Respondent acted contrary to the interest of justice.

In aggravation, the Respondent's misconduct was not limited to an isolated incident, but rather consisted of a pattern of misconduct involving three different attorneys who practiced before her on a regular basis. The Respondent acknowledged she made mistakes, acted in an inappropriate manner, and said she was sorry. However, after observing the Respondent and listening to testimony, we find that she had no remorse for the adverse effect her misconduct had on the legal profession and proceedings before the Workers' Compensation Commission. We find that the regret she expressed was primarily for herself, that is, for the loss of her career and her resulting financial hardship. Additionally, we do not believe she fully understands the seriousness of her misconduct.

There is some mitigation in this case. The Respondent has been licensed to practice law since 1998 and has no prior discipline. Also, she was fully cooperative with the ARDC throughout her disciplinary proceedings. Additionally, three witnesses testified favorable as to the Respondent's character, including about her active involvement with various community and charitable organizations.

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While recognizing that each disciplinary case is unique, with different facts and circumstances, we find the following cases instructive as to the appropriate sanction in the matter before us.

In In re Witt, 145 Ill. 2d 380, 583 N.E.2d 526 (1991), the respondent, while sitting as a judge, received loans from an attorney who appeared before him. The respondent did not disclose the debtor-creditor relationship. The respondent was found to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. The attorney made two loans to the judge, of about $1,400 and $1,100. Before the latter loan was repaid the attorney appeared before the respondent on behalf of a criminal defendant for a bench trial. The attorney also appeared before the respondent in another criminal matter and filed a motion for substitution of judge, which was allowed. Finally, the attorney appeared in a forfeiture case, in which the respondent entered an order of forfeiture. The Supreme Court stated that the "respondent's conduct, in soliciting and failing to disclose a loan from an attorney practicing before him, created the potential for partiality, jeopardized the integrity of the judicial system, and created the appearance of impropriety." The Court also stated the following:

Regrettably, in the past this court has been called upon to determine the appropriate sanction in cases where the attorney has violated a disciplinary rule by making loans to a judge. In this instance, we are faced with the awesome task of determining the appropriate sanction for the judge who is on the other side of the loan transaction. The judge who solicits and accepts loans from attorneys is no less guilty of misconduct than is the attorney who makes the loan. Their conduct is comparable."

Witt, 124 Ill. 2d at 401-402. In mitigation, the Court considered the respondent's otherwise unblemished record; that there was no evidence of dishonest motive; and several witnesses testified as to his honesty and integrity. The respondent was suspended for six months.

In In re Neistein, 132 Ill. 2d 104, 547 N.E.2d 198 (1989), cited in Witt, the two respondents assisted a judge in obtaining a $10,000 loan from a bank. When the judge failed to

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make the required payments, the respondents paid interest and principal on the loan, and made it appear that the payments were from the judge. The respondents paid about $8,770 on behalf of the judge, and then the judge made the remaining payments. The respondents never checked to find out what cases their firm had before the judge and never disclosed their payments on behalf of the judge. The Supreme Court stated that the respondents conduct "called into question the independence and impartiality of a judge whom members of their firm regularly appeared." The respondents were suspended for 30 months.

In In re Ketchum, 124 Ill. 2d 50, 528 N.E.2d 689 (1988), also cited in Witt, the respondent was a long-time friend and neighbor of a judge, LeFevour. The respondent had made loans to LeFevour before he was a judge. After LeFevour became a judge, the respondent made six loans to him, totaling $5,300. The respondent also solicited funds from other attorneys to pay the hospital bill of the judge's mother. The hearing panel found that the respondent "did not make the loans to LeFevour with an intent to influence or obtain judicial favor" and "there had never been an occasion when LeFevour had actually favored [respondent] in the past." However, the Court pointed out that the loans to the judge created the "appearance of impropriety" and that "fully half of the respondent's practice was in a division over which LeFevour presided." The respondent was suspended for two years.

As in Neistein and Ketchum, the Respondent's misconduct that raised serious questions as to her impartiality and fairness was not disclosed and it involved three attorneys who appeared in front of her in numerous cases on a regular basis.

We also considered the disciplinary cases of the three attorneys with whom the Respondent improperly exchanged ex parte e-mails.

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In In re O'Sullivan, 2011PR00078, M.R. 24972 (Jan. 13, 2012), the Supreme Court allowed a Petition to Impose Discipline on Consent, and imposed a censure. O'Sullivan's misconduct arose out of her exchange of ex parte e-mails with Arbitrator Jennifer Teague in one workers' compensation case pending before Teague. The e-mails pertained to the merits of the case in which O'Sullivan represented the claimant. In mitigation, O'Sullivan was licensed to practice in Illinois in 1999 and had no prior discipline; five character witnesses were prepared to testify as to her good reputation for honesty and integrity; she fully cooperated; and she expressed regret for her misconduct. (petition to impose discipline on consent at 2-4).

In In re Barringer, 2011PR00079, M.R. 25465 (Sept. 17, 2012), Barringer's misconduct was based upon her exchange of ex parte e-mails with Arbitrator Jennifer Teague in two workers' compensation matters. The e-mails in one matter contained disparaging comments about a claimant, and the e-mails in the other matter contained disparaging comments about Barringer's opposing counsel. Barringer had no prior misconduct and presented one character witness. The Supreme Court imposed a censure and required Barringer to successfully complete a Professionalism Seminar.

In In re Nadenbush, 2011PR00077, the Hearing Board Report was filed on July 6, 2012, and the matter is pending before the Review Board. The hearing panel found that Barringer engaged in misconduct based upon her exchange of ex parte e-mails with Arbitrator Jennifer Teague in four workers' compensation matters. In two of the cases, the e-mails discussed the merits of the cases. In three of the cases, the e-mails contained negative and disparaging comments about Nadenbush's opposing counsel. It was also found that Nadenbush knowingly made a false statement in a letter to the ARDC. The hearing panel recommended that Nadenbush be suspended for 90 days and be required to successfully complete a Professionalism Seminar.

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The Respondent's misconduct in this case is far more egregious than that committed by O'Sullivan, Barringer, or Nadenbush. The Respondent's misconduct occurred in more cases and involved many more ex parte communications. Also, the Respondent was the presiding official in the workers' compensation cases and, thus, the person who was required to be, and to appear to be, an impartial arbitrator. She failed miserably in that regard. By being in a position of authority and presiding in the cases in which the other three attorneys represented a party, the Respondent could have clearly stopped the exchange of ex parte e-mails by simply informing the other attorneys not to communicate with her ex parte in regard to any pending matter. Instead, the Respondent affirmatively participated in the ex parte communications and induced O'Sullivan, Barringer, and Nadenbush to continue to communicate with her in that manner. The ex parte e-mails the Respondent exchanged with O'Sullivan, Barringer, and Nadenbush discussed the merits of pending cases, contained disparaging comments about their opposing attorneys, and even contained advice from the Respondent regarding the handling of the cases.

The seriousness of Respondent's misconduct with respect to her actions concerning the setting of a secret hearing in a case before her is, in our opinion, profound, and she exhibited a total absence of understanding of, and responsibility for, her complicity in, and of the gravity of, her actions in that regard.

Freedom of the press, as embodied in the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the freedom to speak, write and publish freely, as embodied in Article I, Section 4, of the Illinois Constitution, are protected and priceless rights. But those rights are not protected if the performing of public functions, including, as in this case, the holding of an administrative hearing, are kept from the media and the public. Every attorney is, upon admission to the Bar, sworn to uphold the laws of the land, which include these constitutional

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rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Conspiring to keep an administrative hearing secret, as Respondent did, was nothing less than an intentional failure to comply with her responsibilities as a member of the Bar. Moreover, during her testimony Respondent said nothing that indicates to us she understands or is remorseful for that misconduct, but instead she complained that a news organization's reporting had prevented her from obtaining employment in the legal profession.

The Respondent intentionally and repeatedly engaged in misconduct that jeopardized the appearance of her impartiality and the very integrity of workers' compensation proceedings. In addition, the Respondent deliberately set a special hearing in a case for the purpose of preventing the news media from attending the hearing, and then instructed two attorneys to make false statements if they were asked about the reason for the special setting.

After considering the nature of the Respondent's misconduct, the aggravation, the mitigation, and the cases discussed above, along with the purpose of the attorney disciplinary system, we conclude that a sanction less than a two-year suspension would denigrate the seriousness of the Respondent's misconduct and would erode public trust in the legal profession and administrative officials. See In re Sims, 144 Ill. 2d 323, 325, 579 N.E.2d 865 (1991).

Therefore, we recommend that the Respondent, Jennifer L. Teague, be suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years.

Respectfully Submitted,

Paul C. Hendren
Michael C. Greenfield
Ted L. Eilerman

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CERTIFICATION

I, Kenneth G. Jablonski, Clerk of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois and keeper of the records, hereby certifies that the foregoing is a true copy of the Report and Recommendation of the Hearing Board, approved by each Panel member, entered in the above entitled cause of record filed in my office on November 26, 2012.

Kenneth G. Jablonski, Clerk of the
Attorney Registration and Disciplinary
Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois