Joel Brodsky | Youtube screenshot
CHICAGO — Joel Brodsky, an attorney best known for leading the defense of Drew Peterson, has been suspended from practicing law in Illinois, after a state disciplinary agency accused him of ethical violations, including using a lawsuit to reveal a third-party litigation financing arrangement in a multi-million dollar patent infringement lawsuit over soup can containers.
The Illinois Supreme Court issued a certified order June 19 enforcing a rule to show cause issued to Brodsky on May 10. The final ruling stems from a three-count complaint Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission Administrator Jerome Larkin filed Aug. 21, 2018, through counsel Lea Gutierrez, accusing Brodsky of tactics in court with no purpose in mind other than to embarrass, delay or burden a third party; of failure to abide by a client’s directives; and of disclosing confidential information.
Brodsky was first licensed to practice law in Illinois in Nov. 1, 1982. Among the allegations in the ARDC filing are that he ignored written warnings from federal judges and “continued a pattern and practice of unprofessional behavior including false allegations and inappropriate diatribes in pleadings accusing (opposing counsel) of lying, extortion, attempting to create a false record and repeatedly requesting sanctions without any good-faith basis” as well as sending “vitriolic emails” to opposing counsel and lying to discredit an expert witness.
The Commission also accused Brodsky of improperly filing liens against other attorneys, refusing to withdraw representation from clients and respond to communication from other lawyers as requested and disclosing ostensibly confidential information about client-attorney relationships.
Wrapped up in the Commission’s filing was conduct for which Brodsky had already been sanctioned. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall took issue with how Brodsky conducted himself while representing a used car dealer in a dispute about allegedly false odometer readings, explaining her repeated attempts to instill decorum in the proceedings and how what she considered “a narrow factual and legal issue” turned into an 18-month struggle during which Brodsky’s conduct “overshadowed the legal case and became the focus of numerous court hearings.”
In that action, he called the car buyer's attorney, Peter Lubin, an "extortionsist." The ARDC said Brodksy "knew that Lubin was not extorting money" in that case, and Brodsky "did not believe that Lubin was a criminal."
"Respondent's (Brodsky's) actions in accusing Lubin of extortion and manufacturing a case were unsubstantiated, false, and frivolous, and had no other purpose than to harass and intimidate Lubin," the ARDC said in its complaint.
Brodsky also accused the car buyer’s expert witness of a history of fabricating reports and moved to have the expert held in indirect criminal contempt of court. He also alleged the witness at one time damaged the fence of a woman — a witness in an unrelated matter — in an attempt at intimidation. The Commission’s complaint said those allegations were baseless. The ARDC also accused Brodsky of falsely saying the witness fabricated the existence of a son.
Kendall fined Brodsky $50,000 on March 28, 2018, while also ordering him to attend an ARDC-approved ethics course as well as anger management training and referred him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Executive Committee for possible suspension. On Jan. 18, the U.S. Seventh Circuirt Court of Appeals affirmed those sanctions. The Northern District Executive Committee stayed disciplinary decisions pending Brodsky’s motion for a rehearing, but the Seventh Circuit denied that petition three days later.
Ultimately, the Executive Committee determined Brodsky violated three American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct by bringing frivolous lawsuits, attempting to embarrass or burden an expert witness and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Through attorney Samuel Manella, of Chicago, Brodsky on Sept. 21 filed a 33-page response to the ARDC filing, denying several allegations. He asserted some of “Kendall’s findings are not supported by the record” and contested his awareness of the existence of the nondisclosure agreements he is accused of breaking.
Specifically, the ARDC complaint accused Brodsky of revealing litigation financing arrangements between a client, identified as Terry Johnson, president of Gamon Plus International, and third-party litigation financing company, Gerchen Keller. The Gamon company had sued Campbell Soup Company for using supermarket canned soup dispensers made by New Jersey-based Trinity Manufacturing, which the Gamon companies said infringed their patents for “multi-chute gravity feed dispenser displays.”
After Gamon came to be represented by patent law firm Niro McAndrews LLC, Brodsky filed suit, claiming he was owed $32 million, because the Niro firm allegedly improperly pushed him out of the case. In that lawsuit, Brodsky openly discussed the Gerchen financing arrangement.
The Niro lawyers then moved to seal that aspect of the case, to keep the arrangement out of public view. Niro McAndrews principal Matthew McAndrews told the Cook County Record at that time his firm had also filed a complaint with the ARDC against Brodsky over the matter.
Jonathan Bilyk contributed to this report.