In re Baldwin, Commission No. 05 SH 41, S. Ct. No. M.R. 21132 (Supreme Court order entered November 17, 2006).
In September 2003, Julie Baldwin entered into a contract to serve as a part-time assistant public defender in Peoria County, where she was assigned to represent indigent parents in cases in which her clients faced the possibility of termination of their parental rights. In six appeals brought on behalf of parents in the Appellate Court for the Third Judicial District, Baldwin failed to file timely docketing statements and/or briefs and failed to file timely motions to extend the time for these obligations. On two occasions, she was ordered to appear personally before the Appellate Court to show cause why she should not be held in contempt, and on each occasion she was found to be in contempt. On the second occasion, in April 2005, the Appellate Court barred her from appearing in any future termination of parental rights appeals. The Clerk of the Court testified that Baldwin was the only attorney ever to have been brought before the Court on two contempt proceedings and that she was the only attorney who had been barred from representing clients in that Court. She was terminated from her employment with the Public Defender in July 2005.
As explanations for her conduct, Baldwin cited difficulties with her case load; surgery on a finger of her right hand; advice by other attorneys that the Appellate Court’s due dates were not “written in stone”; and various family issues that, she said, caused her to experience emotional distress. The Hearing Board of the ARDC found that these explanations “demonstrated a lack of concern for her client[s’] cases, a lack of respect for the courts, and a lack of understanding of her duties as an attorney.”
Noting that Baldwin had engaged in a pattern of neglecting appeals, as well as a pattern of disobeying court orders, and taking into account her additional neglect of two matters for private clients and her failure to comply with rules of the ARDC during the course of the disciplinary proceeding, the Hearing Board recommended that she be suspended for two years and until further order. This recommended sanction would require her to apply for reinstatement and prove her fitness to practice after serving the two-year suspension, a requirement that the Hearing Board suggested because it found “no reason to believe that [Baldwin] understands her ethical duties as an attorney or that she is willing or able to represent clients in a diligent and proper manner, comply with court orders, and otherwise practice law in an ethical manner.” The Illinois Supreme Court approved and confirmed the Hearing Board’s report and recommendation, and it ordered Baldwin suspended from the practice of law for two years and until further order of the Court.
The full text of the report of the Hearing Board, as well as the Supreme Court’s final order, may be accessed through the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission’s Web site at <www.iardc.org>, by selecting “Rule and Decisions.”