One of the worst possible scenarios for those unlucky enough to be involved in a lawsuit is when their respective lawyers are at each other’s throats. You may think you are being well-served by an aggressive, boorish lawyer whose focus is on denigrating and insulting opposing counsel, but you are not.
On the other hand, as a client you should be happy if you know or see that your lawyer has a good working relationship with opposing counsel, as you can be sure that the resolution of your case will not be hampered by ill-will between lawyers.
Oddly enough, some clients are disturbed when they see cooperation between their lawyers, misreading it as a sign of weakness on their lawyer’s part. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, there are lawyers who are so well-known for their cranky, obnoxious behavior that other lawyers refuse to take on cases where Mr. or Ms. Miserable is on the opposite side.
A recent example of bickering lawyers arose in a courtroom in Chicago, where last week the final act of an ongoing legal saga came to an end, with Judge Raymond Mitchell ordering both lawyers to resign from the case and their clients to retain new lawyers.
Lawyers Joel Brodsky and Michael Meschino treated their clients and the court to months of disturbing behavior while representing their clients in a business dispute, taking potshots at one another in open court, with no concern for their lack of professionalism and decorum.
At one point Mr. Brodsky called Mr. Meschino a “moron” and a “liar”. Meschino responded with words like “fat, short, and bald” complaining that “Brodsky was constantly shaking his bald head, so that a light was shining on me”. Over time, when the lawyers were in court, up to four sheriffs were present in the courtroom and on two occasions Mr. Meschino was escorted out of the courtroom by sheriffs.
Outside of court, threatening and insulting emails were the norm, and discovery of each party took place in the courthouse rather than in the privacy of a court reporter’s office, as is the usual practice.
Judge Mitchell advised Brodsky and Meschino that a copy of his order would be sent to the Illinois Attorney Discipline Commission so that appropriate action could be taken by the Illinois Bar.
Joel Brodsky is certainly no stranger to ethics complaints. He was the lawyer that acted for former police office Drew Peterson, who was accused of murdering his third wife Kathleen Savio.
Before the case was finished Mr. Brodsky was replaced by new counsel, an event that did not sit well with him. His public comments after his departure as counsel “shocked” the trial judge and resulted in an ethics investigation.
After Drew Peterson was convicted, the animosity between Brodsky and successor counsel, Steven Greenberg was so intense that Brodsky sued Greenberg for defamation, suggesting that Greenberg was a “pathological narcissist”.
Not surprisingly, Brodsky also suggested that Mr. Meschino was mentally ill.
While emotions can run high in hard-fought litigation, the behavior cited by Judge Mitchell has no place in our justice system and the harshest punishment should be levied against lawyers who embarrass themselves and the administration of justice. Sadly, it is their clients who suffer most.