The lawyer exclaims “Gadzooks!” At trial, gets a reprimand

(Image via Getty)

Illinois attorney David C. Thollander was reprimanded by the Illinois Attorneys’ Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The reprimand came after Thollander clashed with Judge Anna Demacopoulos during an age discrimination trial in 2018.

At the root of the problem was Thollander’s old-fashioned exclamation – like reported by ABA Journal:

Thollander said something inaudible and Demacopoulos asked him to speak a little louder.

“Oh, gadzooks,” Thollander replied.

Demacopoulos requested a five-minute suspension. When the proceedings resumed, Thollander interrupted the questioning to ask if he could register a record. The judge refused. This exchange ensued:

Demacopoulos: “Mr. Thollander, I warn you now. Sit down, please. Mr. Thollander, please be seated.

Thollander: “I want to make a record.”

Demacopoulos: “Sit down.”

Thollander: “I still want to make a record.”

Demacopoulos: “Sit down.”

Thollander: “I’m sitting.”

Demacopoulos: “Thank you.”

Thollander: “I want to make a record.”

Demacopoulos (addressing Thollander’s opposing attorney, Kevin Besetzny): “Mr. Besetzny, please. You can ask another question.

Thollander: “Your Honor, I object to the court. I want to report on the issue of supply. [My client’s] complaint requested among others to prohibit the sale and to be sold the property and the discussions and the offer around the sale were all about the settlement or partial settlement of this matter.

Demacopoulos: “Ask another question, Mr. Besetzny. Mr. Thollander, if you’re making another comment in a low voice.

Thollander: “I said, ‘gadzooks.'”

Demacopoulos: “Mr. Thollander, if you make another comment offensive to this court, I will hold you in contempt of court.

Thollander: “Gadzooks is offensive to the court?”

Demacopoulos: “You are now in contempt of court. I’m fining you $1,000. Ask another question, Mr. Besetzny.

Thollander: “Can I ask the court.”

Demacopoulos: “You are now [at] $2,000. Ask another question, Mr. Besetzny.

Demacopoulos increased the fine to $3,000 after he said the witness was confused about an exhibit and asked Thollander which tab he was looking at. Thollander answered “25” in what Demacopoulos considered a shout.

Demacopoulos then reversed the $3,000 penalty and held a penalty hearing. She found Thollander in direct criminal contempt and fined him $1,000.

Demacopoulos found that Thollander refused to comply with court orders, continually mumbled under his breath during the trial, interrupted court by shouting “gadzooks”, and “behaved in other rude, hostile and unseemly ways”.

The appeals court upheld the contempt judgment and recommended a reprimand for his conduct. However, they dismissed claims that Thollander’s conduct was intended to interrupt a court; represented a client in such a way as to embarrass, delay or overwhelm a person; or committed a criminal act affecting his ability to practice as a lawyer. The court said:

“We in no way apologize [Thollander’s] misconduct, but we do not find it particularly serious either, given that it occurred one afternoon of a four-day trial, caused no prejudice to the parties and caused only a slight delay in the proceedings,” the hearing panel said. “We also find that [Thollander’s] the misconduct is mitigated by the fact that he cooperated fully with his disciplinary proceedings, has an unblemished record in 33 years of practice, and presented impressive character evidence.

Thollander says he won’t oppose the court’s reprimand recommendation, saying he was “delighted” with the court’s finding. “I’ve been cleared, except for the exchange about making a record. And that baffles me because at trial these things happen.

Kathryn Rubino is an editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot Podcastand co-host of Think like a lawyer. AtL’s tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

Jon J. Epps