Legal Ethics

Blogging Assistant PD Accused of Revealing Secrets of Little-Disguised Clients

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Updated: A former Illinois assistant public defender’s blog musings about her difficult clients and clueless judges has landed her in trouble with disciplinary officials.

Kristine Ann Peshek has been accused of revealing client confidences, allegedly for describing her clients in a way that made it possible to identify them. Peshek referred to her clients by either their first names, a derivative of their first names, or by their jail identification numbers, according to the disciplinary complaint filed on Aug. 25. The Legal Profession Blog noted the accusations.

Peshek counters that she would never have posted information that she believed would lead to identification of a client, absent the client’s permission or unless the information is a matter of public record. She tells the ABA Journal she is in the process of hiring a lawyer.

Peshek was an assistant public defender in Winnebago County, which includes Rockford, Ill., until she was fired in April 2008 when her supervisor became aware of the blogging, the complaint says. Peshek’s blog, The Bardd Before the Bar—Irreverant Adventures in Life, Law, and Indigent Defense, was published for a little less than a year.

Disciplinary officials also accuse Peshek of failing to inform a judge that a client was taking methadone, information revealed in one of her blog posts. Peshek wrote in the April 2008 post that her client, accused of forging a prescription for a painkiller called Ultram, had claimed she wasn’t using any drugs at the time of her sentencing, according to the complaint. But as she was leaving court, the client revealed the methadone use to Peshek.

“Huh?” Peshek wrote. “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?” As a result of the revelation, Peshek is accused of failing to ask a client to rectify a fraud on the court, as well as other ethical violations.

In the same post, Peshek writes that Ultram is “a moderately decent painkiller, but after a day or 2, any opiate-type ‘high’ is long gone—at least for most people I know. I’ve used it off and on for years and I’ve never noted any ‘craving’ or any other significant effect when I stop.”

In other posts Peshek complained that one judge was clueless and another was an —hole. She also wrote that one client was “taking the rap for his drug-dealing dirtbag of an older brother” and said another was “stoned” while in court, according to the complaint.

Peshek told the ABA Journal in an e-mail that the complaint was served on her less than a week ago. She disagrees with the assessment that her clients could be identified through her blog. “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 said.

Peshek also took issue with the complaint’s characterization of her representation of the methadone-using client. Asked if the event happened, Peshek replied: “Not in the manner that the complaint implied. I did not collaborate with the client to conceal any information from the court, nor did she disclose any information about her methadone treatment program to me prior to her sentencing hearing.”

Updated at 10:10 a.m. CT to include Peshek’s comments.

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