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Illinois attorney faces suspension for insults

By The Associated Press
08.15.02

CHICAGO — An Urbana attorney with a habit of hurling insults at his opposition faces a monthlong suspension for his language.

On Aug. 12, the review board of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission recommended the suspension for Marvin Gerstein. The Illinois Supreme Court is to decide whether to affirm the suspension.

Gerstein, a 62-year-old worker's compensation attorney, contended his letters labeling opposing attorneys and officials "idiot" or "babycakes" are protected by First Amendment free-speech rights. He also is being reprimanded for a 1998 letter suggesting an opponent stick a letter "in that bodily orifice into which no sun shines and try not to get any paper cuts."

Gerstein's attorney, Robert Webber, said his client is considered a "colorful character" and should not be penalized for becoming emotional during trials. He told the review board that Gerstein believed the recipients of letters had done something inappropriate to him or his clients and deserved to be called on it.

Champaign attorney Charles Palmer testified for Gerstein, saying he "always marched to a different drummer. There's nothing wrong with that."

DePaul University law professor Steven Resnicoff said the expressions were so clearly offensive that it was hard to believe Gerstein thought they were protected speech.

The board cited Gerstein for conduct tending to "bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute." He has 35 days to appeal.


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