Attorney cooked for ‘half-baked’ comment to judge

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Florida bankruptcy attorney sanctioned for his intemperate comments in his written responses to a bankruptcy court had no First Amendment defense, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Kevin Christopher Gleason received a 60-day suspension from Bankruptcy Judge John Olson after he wrote scathing remarks to the court, including:

“It is obvious you have not reviewed the record in this case which does not support the purported findings of fact.”

“It is sad when a man of your intellectual ability cannot get it right when your own record does not support your half-baked findings.”

Gleason, obviously upset with the judge’s ruling in a bankruptcy case, later compounded the problem by sending the judge a bottle of wine and an offer to resolve their differences. Attorneys are not supposed to initiate ex parte communications (communications with a judge by only one party to a case).

After a federal district court affirmed the judge’s sanction, Gleason appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, contending that his written comments were protected by the First Amendment. He termed his comments “truthful responses to a string of unjustified abuses.”

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit unanimously affirmed the lower courts in its Oct. 15 decision in In Re Gleason.

“Gleason has identified no authority supporting his contention that the First Amendment shields from sanctions an attorney who files an inappropriate and unprofessional pleading and then contacts a presiding judge ex parte with an offer to share a bottle of wine and ‘privately’ resolve their differences,” the appeals court wrote.

“Proper procedures for challenging rulings that an attorney believes are wrong do not include filing an inappropriate response to a show cause order and then compounding that problem by contacting the judge ex parte.”

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