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Litigation can make us mad, it's true. But the key is not to let your anger take over. That, as Yoda knows all too well, leads to the Dark Side.
David Novoselsky, a lawyer from Illinois, apparently didn't watch any of the "Star Wars" films, because he issued a litany of offensive comments -- in court -- aimed at opposing counsel and the opposing party. That earned him a proposed six-month suspension from the Review Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
Among the several counts for which the Board recommended discipline was an incident that arose out of "the Zvunca Litigation," characterized as "the case of the century" by some attorneys. Here's the short version: Claudia Zvunca, a Romanian immigrant, was hit and killed by a Greyhound bus in 2002. Her seven-year-old daughter saw the accident. The Zvunca estate retained several lawyers, among them Jeanine Stevens, to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against Greyhound. Novoselsky represented Zvunca's surviving husband.
So what happened that could merit suspension? For starters, Stevens heard that Novoselsky wanted to replace her in the wrongful death suit, believing she was "too emotionally involved" in the case. Oh, and he called her the b-word.
And that was just the start. Novoselsky continued to insult Stevens and call her names, outside the judge's presence, but just inside the presence of others, in a calculated attempt to disrupt Stevens during the proceedings. Among the many far, far more colorful words he used, Novoselsky called Stevens an "asshole," "pervert," and "child molester" on multiple occasions.
In his defense, Novoselsky claimed he was "provoked by undocumented personal attacks against him or claimed that the parties were 'ribbing' each other," though witnesses never confirmed that.
Lest you think that Novoselsky is a misogynist, be contented that he's at least an equal opportunity offender. According to the Review Board's report, he also levied insults at John Xydakis, who replaced Novoselsky as the surviving husband's lawyer after the husband fired Novoselsky. Xydakis moved to have Novoselsky replaced as counsel for the surviving daughter; at the hearing, Novoselsky called Xydakis a "cokehead" and an "idiot."
Finally, Novoselsky also apparently called a sheriff's deputy assigned to the courtroom a "dumbbell" after she told him to lower his voice. He also threatened to "have her job" more than once. (And who calls someone a "dumbbell," anyway?)
Novoselsky might have been able to mitigate the damage before the Hearing Board, but instead he chose to make "an excuse for nearly everything he did or did not do, regardless of whether the actions related to a charge of misconduct." This failure to own up to what he did, combined with Novoselsky's "propensity to resort to dishonesty during his testimony at the disciplinary hearing" supported the Review Board's recommendation to suspend him for six months.
Perhaps the Illinois State Bar, when it takes up the recommendation, should also toss in some anger management classes.
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