Illinois disciplinary board recommends 4 month suspension for state prosecutor who pulled gun on process server attempting to serve a complaint and summons

Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent report and recommendation of the Illinois disciplinary board of a 4 month suspension for prosecutor who pulled a gun on a process server who was attempting to serve him with a summons in a federal lawsuit.  The case is In the Matter of Allen W. James, No. 6239218, Commission No. 08 SH 105 (November 15, 2012).  The Board’s Report and Recommendation is at

According to the report and recommendation, a licensed private detective, Dees, had been attempting to serve the lawyer, a criminal prosecutor, with a summons and complaint in a federal lawsuit in which the lawyer was named as a defendant since he was the State’s Attorney of Union County, Illinois.  The process server attempted to serve the lawyer at both his office and his home; however, he was unsuccessful since the lawyer was apparently intentionally avoiding service of the summons.

On the morning of March 19, 2008, the process server approached the lawyer in the parking lot of the Union County Courthouse in an attempt to serve the summons and complaint.  According to the board’s report and recommendation, the process server identified himself, displayed a badge, stated he was a process server, and called the lawyer by his name. The lawyer then pulled a loaded .380 semi-automatic handgun from his pocket and pointed it at the investigator.  The process server identified himself again and the lawyer continued to point the gun at him.  The process server then dropped the summons at the lawyer’s feet and left and no shots were fired.  The investigator reported the incident to the Union County Sheriff’s Department.  The lawyer was subsequently charged with aggravated assault and found guilty of that crime.

The lawyer was then charged with violation of Illinois disciplinary rules for misconduct related to criminal charges.  A hearing board conducted proceedings and issued a report stated, in part: “(i)n summary, we find that the Respondent committed the criminal offense of Aggravated Assault in the parking lot of the Union County Courthouse on March 19, 2008, in that the Respondent, without justification, knowingly drew and pointed a loaded handgun, a deadly weapon, at Christopher Dees, a process server, thereby placing Mr. Dees in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.  We also find that, before the Respondent drew his handgun, he knew or had a strong suspicion that Mr. Dees was a process server who was attempting to serve summons on the Respondent, as the Respondent knew Dees had attempted to do on the previous day at both the Respondent’s office and home.  We further find that, at the time the Respondent drew his handgun, the Respondent did not believe that Mr. Dees posed a threat to his safety, and the Respondent did not draw his handgun for the purpose of protecting himself from physical harm.”

The hearing board concluded that the lawyer engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration justice and recommended a 6 month suspension.  After reviewing the hearing board’s findings and considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the disciplinary board recommended a 4 month suspension.  The Illinois Supreme Court will consider the matter and issue a final disciplinary opinion.

Bottom line:  Don’t pull a gun and commit an assault on a process server (who is just doing his or her job)…particularly if you are a criminal prosecutor charged with upholding the law…

Be careful out there!

Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670



About jcorsmeier

Joseph A. Corsmeier is an “AV” rated attorney practicing in Clearwater, Florida. He concentrates his practice primarily in the areas of defense of attorney disciplinary matters before The Florida Bar, attorney admission matters before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and professional license and disciplinary matters before the Boards of the State of Florida. He provides expert analysis and opinion on conflict of interest and other attorney disqualification and legal malpractice issues and he testified as an expert in the Florida courts. He served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Sixth Judicial Circuit from 1986 to 1990 where he prosecuted felonies exclusively from June 1987, and as Bar Counsel for The Florida Bar’s Department of Lawyer Regulation from 1990 to 1998. He also practices in the areas of estate planning and Medicaid qualification, workers’ compensation, and labor law. Mr. Corsmeier is the author of numerous articles for various bar publications, has spoken at numerous local and statewide seminars on various topics, including ethics and professionalism, and was an instructor of legal ethics for paralegals at Rollins College until the Tampa campus closed. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State University and his J.D. from Mercer University. He is admitted to practice in all Florida Courts, the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the Middle District of Florida. He is a member of The Florida Bar, American Bar Association, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and the Clearwater and St. Petersburg Bar Associations.
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