Ethics in Brief

Ethics in Brief is designed to present ethical issues that practitioners might well face on a daily basis. It is a service of the Legal Ethics Committee of the San Diego County Bar Association.

Retribution for Adversaries: A Really Bad Idea. 

Litigation can breed ill will among opposing counsel. Such ill will may result from Ramboesq tactics; discovery obstructionism; and general nastiness. That, of course, is not the way it should be. One attorney apparently feeling himself to be the victim of such tactics used the internet and its apparent anonymity to get back at opposing counsel. This article is about that attorney and the ill consequences which befell him.

We should all be aware that the State Bar California is under substantial pressure ato protect consumers and to enforce the State Bar Act and the Rules of Professional Conduct. A review of the most recent edition of the State Bar Journal reflects the scope and breadth of disbarments and other discipline. That edition reflects some 40 disbarments in the last several months some arising from the obvious – attorney embezzlement or mishandling of client funds- to the less obvious. The State Bar is actively disciplining attorneys convicted in criminal proceedings involving charges of fraud; convicted of tax evasion; who file false financial statements with federally insured financial institution; who make CLE misrepresentations; who fail to obtain potential conflict waivers; who fail to appear at court ordered proceedings; who fail to report non-discovery sanctions of $1000 or more to the State Bar; who drive under the influence; who take frivolous position in litigation and the list goes on.

Business and Professions Code Section 6106 prohibits “the commission of any act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption, whether the act is committed in the course of his [sic] relations as an attorney or otherwise, and whether the act is a felony or misdemeanor or not, constitutes a cause for disbarment or suspension.” Stated more succinctly: such an act even if not committed by an attorney in his or her role as an attorney and even if no crime is involved may nonetheless constitute a basis for disciplinary action.

Illinois has a similar rule and that rule prompted disciplinary proceedings against attorney Drew Quitschau. What did Mr. Quitshau do to expose himself to disciplinary proceedings?

Mr. Quitshau was opposed in litigation by attorney Jane Doe. At that time, Mr. Quitshau was a partner at Thompson & Weintraub until February 10, 2017 when he was terminated. Mr. Quitshau and Ms. Doe, also a licensed Illinois attorney, were opposing counsel in many matters. Apparently, Mr. Quitshau was quite unhappy with Jane Doe.

What did Mr. Quitshau do? Seemingly secure in the knowledge that his actions would be anonymous, Mr. Quitshau used the internet to secure retribution against Ms Doe.

Using his firm computer Mr. Quitshau accessed the online dating website creating an online account in Ms. Doe’s name. Her profile described her as separated from her husband and estranged from her children; a smoker who consumed copious amounts of alcohol; a NASCAR aficionado without any interest in exercise; and a lover of cats. Mr. Quitshau continued his internet campaign by registering Ms. Doe with the Obesity Action Coalition and Pig International. Such registrations entitled Miss Doe to receive periodicals and fat reduction materials as well as the pork international publication. Finally, Mr. Quitshau created an extremely negative review of Ms. Doe’s professional ability and posted the false review on Martindale .com and/or the website.

None of Mr. Quitshau’s postings were true.

Trouble started then for Mr. Quitshau. His law firm hired a forensic computer investigator who found that the postings regarding Ms. Doe came from Mr. Quitshau’s computer. Mr. Quitshau was terminated. The Illinois State Bar determining that the postings were false and violative of the Illinois State Bar Act commenced disciplinary proceedings. Finally, one can only imagine what happened to Mr. Quitshau’s reputation in the legal community.

Mr.Quitshau’s actions highlight the importance of maintaining at all times one’s professionalism. That not only will help avoid having to deal with the State Bar discipline machinery but also enable one to sleep at night.

-- Charles Berwanger 

**No portion of this summary is intended to constitute legal advice. Be sure to perform independent research and analysis. Any views expressed are those of the author only and not of the SDCBA or its Legal Ethics Committee.**