BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD

OF THE

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION

AND

DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

CHARLES ANDREW COHN,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 6185255.

Commission No. 2018PR00109

FILED --- December 12, 2018

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Melissa A. Smart, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent, Charles Andrew Cohn, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 9, 1983, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct, which subjects him to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770:

COUNT I
(Using means with no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person in the course of pending litigation)

1. At all times alleged in this complaint, Respondent represented the plaintiff, William Green ("Green"), in a complaint for declaratory judgment related to a coverage dispute wherein Green sought to compel American Freedom Insurance Co. ("American Freedom") and other parties, to provide insurance coverage to him following an automobile collision. The matter was entitled, William Green v. American Freedom Insurance Company, et. al., case number 15 CH 12061, in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The case was assigned to Judge Franklin U. Valderrama ("Judge Valderrama"). Attorney, K.H. ("KH") represented the defendant, American Freedom.

2. On November 10, 2016, KH, on behalf of her client, took Green's deposition as part of discovery in case number 15 CH 12061. The November 10, 2016 deposition was taken pursuant to appropriate notice, was transcribed by a certified court reporter and Green was duly sworn. At the deposition, Respondent represented Green and KH represented American Freedom.

3. During Green's November 10, 2016 deposition the following exchange took place (page 32, lines 3-24 and page 33, line 1):

KH: So no one provided you any vehicle to use during your work for TEKsystems; is that correct?

Green: That question is vague.

Respondent: And I will object.

KH: Well, would you answer.

Respondent: It's ridiculous, just ridiculous. It goes beyond -- I'll object and direct you not to answer.

KH: Will you answer the question?

Green: No.

KH: Certify the question.

Respondent: Okay. Then certify your own stupidity at this point.

KH: Counsel, I'm not going to sit here and take insults from you.

Respondent: At this point in time, a man who insults on a daily basis everybody he does business with has now been elected President of the United States. The standards have changed. I'll say what I want.

4. Respondent's statements to KH during the November 10, 2016 deposition, as referenced in paragraph three, above, describing KH's deposition questions as "ridiculous," and suggesting that KH "certify [her] own stupidity," served no purpose other than to embarrass, intimidate, and burden KH during the course of Respondent's representation of Green in case number 15 CH 12061.

5. Also during Green's November 10, 2016 deposition the following exchange took place (page 36, lines 7-21):

KH: Have you ever received any invoices or bills or itemized statements -

Respondent: Don't waste your breath.

KH: -- concerning the attorneys' time or fees for representing you in a claim against American Freedom?

Respondent: Objection, direction not to answer.

KH: Will you answer the question?

Green: No.

KH: Certify the question.

Respondent: Motions for sanctions; indicate that on the record. I'm going to get sanctions against your firm like you wouldn't believe, bitch.

6. Respondent's statements to KH as referenced in paragraph five, above, including interrupting KH's question with the statement, "[d]on't waste your breath," and addressing KH as "bitch," served no purpose other than to embarrass, intimidate, and burden KH during the course of Respondent's representation of Green in case number 15 CH 12061.

7. On December 7, 2016, KH, on behalf of American Freedom, filed a motion to compel discovery in case number 15 CH 12061. The motion to compel specifically related to the November 10, 2016 deposition, and asked the court to: overrule Respondent's objections to the deposition questions, compel Green to answer the questions to which Respondent objected and compel Green to present himself for continued discovery depositions in the case. The November 10, 2016 deposition transcript was attached as an exhibit to the motion to compel. The motion to compel was pending before the court from December 7, 2016 to January 30, 2017.

8. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. in representing a client, engaging in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal by conduct including, but not limited to, using obstructionist tactics during a deposition, not permitted by law, and describing KH's deposition questions as "ridiculous," suggesting that KH "certify [her] own stupidity," interrupting KH's question with the statement, "[d]on't waste your breath," and addressing KH as "bitch," during a deposition in the matter, in violation of Rule 3.5(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. in representing a client, using means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, by conduct including, but not limited to, describing KH's deposition questions as "ridiculous," suggesting that KH "certify [her] own stupidity," interrupting KH's question with the statement, "[d]on't waste your breath," and addressing KH as "bitch," during a deposition in the matter, in violation of Rule 4.4(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and,

  3. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice by conduct including, but not limited to, describing KH's deposition questions as "ridiculous," suggesting that KH "certify [her] own stupidity," interrupting KH's question with the statement, "[d]on't waste your breath," and addressing KH as "bitch," during a deposition, which caused or resulted in additional pleadings to be filed, additional proceedings to be held and delay in the resolution of the matter, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT II
(False or reckless statements about a judge)

9. On December 15, 2016, the parties appeared before Judge Valderrama for a presentment hearing on the motion to compel, described in paragraph 7, above, in case number 15 CH 12061, at which time Judge Valderrama granted Respondent's request to file a written response to the motion to compel, set forth a date certain by which that response should be filed, and admonished Respondent for the statements he made, including the statements referenced in paragraphs 3 and 5, above, and his conduct during the November 10, 2016 deposition.

10. On December 22, 2016, Respondent filed Green's response to American Freedom's motion to compel in case number 15 CH 12061. In the response, Respondent set forth his position that the statements he made during the November 10, 2016 deposition were in reaction to KH's "bullying and improper questions," and "general angry tone." In the response, Respondent also made the following statements:

  1. "In fact, I would have apologized when the Court raised the issue of these comments on December 15, but the court, in its anger, refused to let this counsel speak and further made comments attempting to hold me to the statement made in the deposition."

  2. "However, on December 15, 2015 [sic], Judge Valderamma [sic] flew into a rage of his own at this counsel for what was said in the deposition."

  3. "While Judge Valderamma [sic] had made some favorable rulings to the plaintiff regarding other defendants in this case in the past, in light of recent events, and particularly the 'robe rage incident' of December 15, 2016, it is unclear to this counsel whether the client, who has a meritorious case and said nothing inappropriate at his deposition, will now suffer because of the anger this court holds against his counsel."

  4. "In this case, the judge saw an angry situation develop in a deposition and reacted in anger. It is always preferable if a judge is able to put out fires rather than pour oil on the flames."

  5. "On the other hand, such temper as was displayed by the Court calls into question the impartiality of the tribunal."

11. When Respondent filed his response, and made the statements therein, as described in paragraph ten, above, Respondent either knew that these statements about the court's impartiality were false or he made these statements with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.

12. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

a. making a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, by conduct including, but not limited to, drafting and filing a pleading which referred to Judge Valderrama as having engaged in a "robe rage incident," and which questioned the court's impartiality, in violation of Rule 8.2(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and,

b. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice by conduct including, but not limited to, drafting and filing a pleading which referred to Judge Valderrama as having engaged in a "robe rage incident," and which contained various statements which questioned Judge Valderrama's impartiality, which caused or resulted in additional pleadings to be filed and delay in the resolution of the matter in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.

Melissa A. Smart
Illinois Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission
One Prudential Plaza
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601-6219
Telephone: (312) 565-2600
Facsimile: (312) 565-2320
Email: ARDCeService@iardc.org
Email: msmart@iardc.org

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  Melissa A. Smart