Fired public defender, blogger faces ARDC disciplinary action
By Stuart R. Wahlin
Kristine Ann Peshek, a former assistant public defender for Winnebago County, faces accusations by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), an agency that oversees professional conduct of attorneys practicing in Illinois.
Peshek is accused of having revealed information in her personal blog that could be used to identify her former clients. She’s also alleged to have failed to disclose that a client had lied to the court.
Peshek was first licensed to practice law in 1989, and worked as a Winnebago County assistant public defender for 19 years.
In 2007 and 2008, the complaint alleges, Peshek posted client confidences or secrets to her blog, “The Bardd [sic] Before the Bar: Irreverent adventures in life, law and indigent defense.”
Count I alleges, “Respondent referred to her clients by either their first name, a derivative of their first name, or by their jail identification number.”
The accusations against Peshek claim the information contained in the blog “was confidential, or that it had been gained in the professional relationship and the revelation of it would be embarrassing or detrimental” to her clients.
The blog also allegedly detailed an experience with another client who Peshek learned had hidden continued drug use from the court.
Just after being sentenced to probation and 90 days in jail—five to be served immediately—the drug use was admitted to Peshek, because the client allegedly feared five days in jail without methadone, according to the blog entry.
“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? And you expect what to happen if you do this? I’ll tell you what would happen; the sentence just pronounced would be immediately vacated and you’d go to prison, that’s what would happen.”
In addition to allegedly revealing confidential or identifying information about her client, the complaint continues, Peshek allegedly exhibited “conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.”
The ARDC allegations state Peshek should have urged her client to “rectify her misstatement,” and that Peshek had a “duty to inform the court.”
While recounting her work-related experiences in her blog, Peshek is also alleged to have referred to one judge as “a total a–hole,” and allegedly referred to another as “Judge Clueless.”
It is alleged Peshek’s blog entries “contained sufficient identifying information such that Respondent’s co-workers, employees of the State’s Attorney’s Office, police, bailiffs, or other participants in the Winnebago Circuit Court system could determine the identity of the clients and judges to which Respondent’s blog entries referred.
“The blog entries also contained sufficient information such that a motivated person who was not an employee of the Winnebago Circuit Court could, using other publicly available information, determine the identity of the judges and clients referred to in Respondent’s blog entries,” the ARDC document adds.
According to the file, Peshek’s supervisor learned in April 2008 she had allegedly been publishing the information on her blog, for which Peshek was immediately terminated as an assistant public defender.
It is not certain whether Peshek challenged her dismissal, and she would not comment on the record for this article.
Her blog, now password-protected and renamed “A Bird in a Roomful of Cats,” notes: “I do not post the real name of any person I may mention without prior permission—and mostly not even then. In fact, some of the ‘persons’ made reference to are amalgams of several similarly situated individuals, given a ‘pseudonym’ in order to protect the innocent (or the guilty, as the nature of this blog should indicate may often be the case). If you think you recognize yourself or another in these pages, you may possibly be right—but you most probably are wrong.”
According to an e-mail Peshek sent to the American Bar Association Journal, “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.”
The allegations were filed Aug. 25, and Peshek will face a disciplinary hearing before an ARDC panel.
Meantime, Peshek indicated she is seeking legal representation.
From the September 16-22, 2009 issue
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