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Legal Ethics

Lawyer Is Suspended for Two Years for False Claim About Judge’s Behind-the-Bench Activity

Posted May 31, 2012 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Kansas lawyer has been suspended for two years for falsely claiming that the judge mediating her divorce appeared to be masturbating under the bench.

Kimberly Ireland made the claim in an ethics complaint and a federal lawsuit, according to findings of fact by a hearing panel. At the time she was suffering from heart problems that resulted in six hospitalizations, as well as an acute stress disorder. The Legal Profession Blog notes the suspension (PDF) by the Kansas Supreme Court.

In her ethics complaint, Ireland had alleged the judge overseeing the mediation refused to listen to her side of the case. Even worse, she claimed, “The majority of the time we were in the courtroom, it appeared as if [the judge] was masturbating under the bench. He used profanity repeatedly, and continually used and directed the word 'f---' to me. He talked about my ‘panties,’ discussed my sex life and who I was ‘boinking.' All of these things he did outside the presence of my attorney and in front of my ex-husband. I was extremely uncomfortable, and I felt trapped in a courtroom with a judge who was intentionally intimidating and sexually harassing me.”

The judge said he did use profanity, but only when repeating statements made by the parties, to confirm that he is listening. There was no basis for the masturbation allegation, according to the findings of fact. The judge’s administrative assistant and his court reporter were in the courtroom during the mediation, and both refuted Ireland’s allegations.

Ireland’s claims were publicized in Pitch Weekly and Above the Law. Her lawyer later issued a statement of apology. “After further reflection, Ms. Ireland believes her perceptions regarding [the judge’s] conduct and the conduct of other court personnel involved in her divorce action were the product of extreme stress, and she has now determined that her claims were untrue,” the statement read.

The Kansas Supreme Court made the two-year suspension retroactive to March 2010 when a temporary suspension began. If Ireland seeks reinstatement, she will have to follow Kansas court rules that call for a character and fitness investigation.

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