Illinois Attorney General Sued for Malpractice
An article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscrip. required), reported on a legal malpractice lawsuit that was recently filed against Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan and two of her assistants by state police colonel Diane Carper alleging that the attorneys failed to adequately represent the officer in a federal case.
According to the article, the malpractice lawsuit stems from two underlying cases. In one, Randy Steidel spent 17 years in prison for the 1986 murders of an Illinois couple. In 2004, Steidel's petition for habeas corpus was granted by a federal judge who found that acquittal would have been probable if Steidel's jury had heard all of the evidence. Prosecutors then made the decision not to retry Steidel. Steidel then proceeded to file a federal lawsuit against officials who originally investigated his case and state police officials who he maintained blocked a full reinvestigation of his case.
In 2000, Lt. Michaele Callahan was assigned to investigate the case and found evidence that undermined the case against Steidel and uncovered another potential suspect, a Paris businessman, however, after allegedly deciding the case was "too politically sensitive," Carper and others supposedly limited the investigation of the businessman to "intelligence gathering" and attempted to discredit Callahan's work. This led to Callahan, in 2005, filing a federal complaint against Carper and other police officials asserting that they abused their authority as state employees and deprived him of his right to free speech under the Constitution.
The attorney generals office initially represented Carper and the other two defendants in the Callahan litigation. Madigan assigned two of her assistant A.G.s to the case. One of these assistants A.G.s supposedly assured those involved that there were no conflicts of interest precluding them from representing all three of the defendants, and allegedly also reassured the defendants that there was little, if any, chance of the case not being dismissed on a motion for summary judgment and proceeding to trial.
However, the judge denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment in mid-March 2005 and set a trial date for a few weeks later. At that point, it is alleged that the A.G.'s office realized the potential for conflicts of interest among their clients and authorized the hiring of an outside counsel to represent the three defendants two weeks before the trial was to start. A jury then found Carper and one of the other defendants liable and awarded compensatory and punitive damages to Callahan.
According to the Law Bulletin article - In her legal malpractice complaint, Carper now maintains that Madigan accepted the defense of Carper which created an attorney-client relationship and delegated her duty to defend to two of her assistant A.G.s who breached their duty to Carper by "placing undue reliance on the motion for summary judgment focusing on the affirmative defense of qualified public official immunity, to the exclusion of adequate preparation for trial." See, Diane G. Carper v. Karen L. McNaught, et al., No. 07 L 4513.
This is an interesting case I will continue to follow. Especially of interest to me is what possible defense the AGs will have as to why they did not recognize the conflicts sooner and advise the three defendants to get independent counsel.