Estate and Elder Law

Attorney Charged with Ethics Complaint over Probate Blog


Every now and then, blogging will get someone in "trouble." See e.g. Rakofsky v. Internet, in which one Joseph Rakofsky sued a whole bunch of bloggers and other media over their posts criticizing among other things, his competency and ethics.   I put the words "trouble" in quotes, because just because someone sues, it doesn't necessarily mean that the blogger was in the wrong. I myself have been contacted a few times by various people who did not like what I wrote in my own posts and requested that I take it down.

Now, according to the National Law Journal, the Illinois Attorney and Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint against patent and trademark attorney attorney Joanne Denison, because of her "probate blog."

Yes, you read that right. Why is a patent attorney writing a probate blog?

According to the complaint, and the NLJ story, Denison's posts describe a contested guardianship in which she at first, personally represented one of the litigants. However, on December 7, 2009, the Court disqualified her from representing [one of the parties] due to the fact that Denison notarized the signatures of her client and the Ward (who had not yet been declared incapacitated) on a document that gave her client the Ward's entire interest in a lawsuit at a time when the Ward may have been suffering from dementia.

Two years later, while the case was still ongoing, Denison began her blog marygsykes, with "Mary G. Sykes" being the name of the incapacitated person in the above referenced case. The ethics complaint cites to a number of Denison's posts in which Denison accuses the judges, the probate system, and the guardians ad litem of being "corrupt."

I've read a bit of Denison's blog and one thing is for sure - she is angry. But she is angry at what she sees to be major injustices in the Guardianship systems, both in Cook County, and elsewhere. More recently, she is angry at the Illinois Attorney and Registration and Disciplinary Commission disregard of the First Amendment.

I certainly would never call my local probate judges "corrupt." First, because they're not, and second, because I value my livelihood. Ms. Denison wrote a large volume of lengthy posts. The complaint seems to cherry pick some of the more incendiary language with the intent of shutting her up.

Although I don't necessarily agree with her tactics, as a blogger who is in favor of more free speech for attorneys vs. less, I'm rooting for Ms. Denison. At least for now.

Visit South Florida Estate Planning Law for more commentary from Florida estate planning attorney David Shulman. David Shulman is an attorney located in South Florida who focuses his practice on Wills, Trusts and Estates, and Tax Planning. He attended George Washington University Law School and Brandeis University, both of which he graduated with honors. In addition David received his LLM in Estate Planning from the University of Miami Law School. Prior to starting his own practice, David worked for the Internal Revenue Service and a large South Florida law firm.


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