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Lawyer Faces Discipline Over Blog Posts

A former Illinois assistant public defender faces disciplinary charges over postings to her blog that Illinois authorities say exposed client confidences and revealed her complicity in a client's fraud on a court. The attorney denies the charges and says she plans to hire legal counsel to help her fight them.

The focus of the disciplinary complaint is Kristine Ann Peshek and her former blog, "The Bardd Before the Bar -- Irreverant Adventures in Life, Law, and Indigent Defense." Among other things, the blog chronicled her work as an assistant public defender in Winnebago County. She discontinued the blog when her supervisor became aware of it in April 2008 and fired her.

The two-count complaint from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission charges Peshak with writing posts to her blog that identified her clients and revealed confidential information about them. Although she never used last names, she referred to clients by first names or by jail identification numbers, the complaint says. In the course of her writing about her defense of clients on drug and other charges, she revealed information that would be "embarrassing or detrimental" to them, the complaint charges.

In one post, Peshak describes her conversation with a client just after the client's sentencing. Having told the judge and Peshak that she did not use drugs, the client now wanted to go back before the judge and tell him that she was on Methadone. Peshak's blog post described her reaction:

Huh? You want to go back and tell the judge that you lied to him, you lied to the pre-sentence investigator, you lied to me? And you expect what to happen if you do this? I'll tell you what would happen; the sentence just pronounced would be immediately vacated and you'd go to prison, that's what would happen.

This post was double trouble, the complaint charges. Not only did Peshak harm her client with the post, but she also revealed her complicity in her client's fraud upon the court.

In an e-mail to the ABA Journal, Peshek said that she would never have posted information that she believed would lead to identification of a client unless she had the client's permission or it was a matter of public record. "I would not have posted any information in such a manner that I thought a specific client could be identified, without that client’s permission, or without the information being a matter of public record," she told the ABA Journal.

Peshak's former blog has been replaced by a new one, A Bird in a Roomful of Cats. Her new blog carries what she describes as a caveat, and it includes this:

I do not post the real name of any person I may mention without prior permission – and mostly not even then. In fact, some of the "persons" made reference to are amalgams of several similarly situated individuals, given a "pseudonym" in order to protect the innocent (or the guilty, as the nature of this blog should indicate may often be the case). If you think you recognize yourself or another in these pages, you may possibly be right - but you most probably are wrong.

"It so happens," she goes on to write, "that I was born hard-wired to be bluntly honest and outspoken about what I see, think and believe. ... I am a professional rabble rouser using the internet as a vehicle to vent." It remains for Illinois disciplinary authorities to decide whether her bluntness crossed an ethical line.

[A hat tip to Legal Profession Blog, which first reported the complaint.]

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 11, 2009 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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