Legal Ethics

Lawyer accuses judge of 'robe rage,' tells opposing counsel to 'certify your own stupidity,' ethics complaint says

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A Chicago lawyer has been accused of belittling his opposing counsel during a deposition and then describing the judge’s reaction to his conduct as “robe rage.”

Charles Andrew Cohn was accused in a Dec. 12 ethics complaint noted by the Legal Profession Blog. The complaint relies on a transcript of the November 2016 deposition and a court filing by Cohn.

During the deposition, Cohn had instructed his client not to answer a question, spurring the opposing lawyer to note her disagreement. “Certify the question,” said the opposing lawyer, who is identified only as “K.H.” in the complaint.

“OK,” Cohn replied. “Then certify your own stupidity.”

“Counsel, I’m not going to sit here and take insults from you,” K.H. responded.

“At this point in time,” Cohn replied, “a man who insults on a daily basis everybody he does business with has now been elected president of the United States. The standards have changed. I’ll say what I want.”

Later in the deposition, Cohn interrupted K.H.’s question and said, “Don’t waste your breath.” After she continued, Cohn instructed his client not to answer. “Certify the question,” K.H. again said.

Cohn replied: “Motions for sanctions; indicate that on the record. I’m going to get sanctions against your firm like you wouldn’t believe, bitch.”

K.H. filed a motion to compel that sought to overrule Cohn’s objections to her questions. During a December 2016 hearing on the motion, Judge Franklin Valderrama of Cook County admonished Cohn for his deposition statements and allowed him to file a response to K.H.’s motion.

In the court filing, Cohn said his statements were a response to K.H.’s “bullying and improper questions” as well as her “general angry tone.” Cohn also wrote that the judge had himself flown into a rage in the court hearing, describing the situation as a “robe rage incident.”

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed the complaint.

Cohn told the ABA Journal he has certain feelings about the ethics complaint, but he prefers not to discuss them. “I have no comment of any kind at this time,” he said. “I think the safer move is not to say anything.”

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