Lawyers need to keep their tempers in check no matter how frustrating it can be dealing with judges who tend to move to the beat of their own drummer. That lesson was underscored recently by an Ohio lawyer who nearly found himself out of business after letting his temper get the best of him.
Back in 2010, Edward Michael DiCato, an attorney from Green, Ohio, desperately needed Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands to get her behind in gear and approve certain fee applications he had before the court.
DiCato called Judge Rowlands’ bailiff about the fee applications and was apparently unhappy with the answers he received concerning when they would be approved. Rather than biting his tongue, DiCato vented his frustration by calling the judge a lying, cheating bitch.
DiCato may have thought he was exercising his First Amendment rights, but the judge didn’t see it that way when she heard about the name-calling.
Judge Rowlands issued an order directing DiCato to appear and show cause why he should not be held in contempt. DiCato appeared at the contempt hearing and pleaded guilty, making the excuse that he had been upset about his pending fee applications and had been taking oxycodone for a chronic back condition.
Despite his apology, the judge found DiCato to be in direct criminal contempt for calling into question the dignity of the court as well as the character and reputation of a sitting judge. He was sentenced to 48 hours in the Summit County Jail, suspended on the condition that he refrain from similar conduct in the future, and ordered to pay a $500 fine.
If DiCato thought that was the end of the matter, he was wrong. The Akron Bar Association filed a disciplinary complaint charging DiCato with misconduct.
The Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline decided that DiCato had engaged in misconduct and recommended that he be suspended for six months. Luckily, the board recommended that the suspension be stayed on condition that DiCato mind his manners.
Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court adopted the board’s recommendation in full.
“We agree that DiCato engaged in undignified and discourteous conduct that was degrading to a tribunal by making a false statement, either intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth, impugning the integrity of Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands. His conduct adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law and warrants the sanction recommended by the board,” the court said. (Akron Bar Assn. v. DiCato)
Members of the bench have a strong instinct to protect the herd, so DiCato should probably count himself lucky that the justices on the state supreme court decided not impose a harsher sanction for his offending Judge Rowlands. We can only hope that the judge has gotten around to approving DiCato’s fee applications.
– Pat Murphy