Lawyer Exclaims ‘Gadzooks!’ At Trial, Gets A Reprimand


(Image via Getty)

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

At the root of the issue was Thollander’s old fashioned exclamation — as reported by ABA Journal:

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

“Oh, gadzooks,” Thollander replied.

Demacopoulos called a five-minute recess. When proceedings resumed, Thollander interrupted questioning to ask whether he could make a record. The judge refused. This exchange ensued:

Demacopoulos: “Mr. Thollander, I’m warning you at this time. Please have a seat. Mr. Thollander, please have a seat.”

Thollander: “I want to make a record.”

Demacopoulos: “Have a seat.”

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

Demacopoulos: “Have a seat.”

Thollander: “I’m sitting down.”

Demacopoulos: “Thank you.”

Thollander: “I want to make a record.”

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

Thollander: “Your honor, I’m objecting to the court. I want to make a record as to the issue of the offer. [My client’s] complaint sought among other things enjoining the sale and having the property sold to him and the discussions and offer around the sale all pertained to settlement or partial settlement of this case.”

Demacopoulos: “Ask another question, Mr. Besetzny. Mr. Thollander, if you make one more comment under your breath.”

Thollander: “I said, ‘gadzooks.’”

Demacopoulos: “Mr. Thollander, if you make one more comment that’s 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: “May I ask the court.”

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

Demacopoulos increased the fine to $3,000 after she said the witness was confused about an exhibit and asked Thollander what tab that he was looking at. Thollander replied, “25” in what Demacopoulos deemed to be a scream.

Demacopoulos later vacated the $3,000 sanction and held a sanction hearing. She found Thollander in direct criminal contempt and fined him $1,000.

Demacopoulos found that Thollander refused to comply with court orders, continually muttered under his breath during the trial, interrupted the court by yelling “gadzooks,” and “behaved in other rude, hostile and unbecoming manners.”

The appellate court confirmed the contempt judgement and recommended a reprimand for his conduct. However they rejected allegations Thollander’s conduct intended to interrupt a tribunal; represented a client in a way to embarrass, delay or burden a person; or committed a criminal act reflecting adversely on his fitness as a lawyer. The court said:

“By no means do we excuse [Thollander’s] misconduct, but neither do we find it particularly serious, given that it occurred on one afternoon of a four-day trial, caused no harm to the parties, and caused only a short delay in the proceedings,” the hearing board said. “We also find that [Thollander’s] misconduct is mitigated by the facts that he fully cooperated in his disciplinary proceeding, has an unblemished record in 33 years of practice, and presented impressive character testimony.”

Thollander says he will not oppose the court’s reprimand recommendation, saying he was “delighted” at the court’s finding. “I was vindicated, with the exception of the exchange concerning making a record. And that baffles me because at trial these things happen.”

Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL 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).


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