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Can a lawyer be sanctioned for aggressiveness?

Lawyers are known for aggressive tactics. One might even say that “arguing” is in their job description. However, ethics are also a component of the legal profession. Overly aggressive or vindictive tactics can get you in serious trouble in California or anywhere across the rest of the country, as a Chicago lawyer recently learned firsthand.

A history of aggressive behavior

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission recently ruled to suspend Joel Brodsky based on a history of aggressive behavior and name-calling. Brodsky repeatedly made baseless and offensive accusations about his colleagues and engaged in relentless vindictive legal tactics. The Commission noted his lack of remorse for his actions, citing past wrongdoing as well as indicating that he was willing to do whatever it took to achieve his own ends.

Brodsky, who is currently suspended pending further review, is an example of ethics gone wrong. This attorney’s actions are on the more blatant side of ethical violations. However, the law isn’t always clear.

When did the attorney cross the line?

Aggressiveness in the courtroom alone is not usually enough to merit an ethics violation. But combined with other erratic behavior, including “inappropriate diatribes” and “unnecessary motions,” it was enough for the court to act. Brodsky’s unfounded—and sometimes discriminatory—accusations of other professionals were also a major factor in the suspension.

Lawyers can be held accountable for their actions

Legal professionals are held to a high standard of ethics as they have a responsibility to the public, and any violation of that high standard is a serious matter. Lawyers can—and should—be held accountable for their actions if they are against the public good.