Joel Brodsky, former counsel for Drew Peterson, has had a tough year. First, he loses the case and then the client. Second, lawyers in a completely separate case cite his alleged grandstanding as harming not just Peterson’s chances for acquittal but all criminal defendants. Now, Peterson himself (through his new counsel) is claiming that Brodsky lied to him about his experience and used him as a virtual prop to try to become a celebrity lawyer.
Post-trial motions based on ineffective counsel are always harsh by necessity. Many criminal defense lawyers shrug it off as simply a former client trying every angle for a new trial. However, Peterson, 58, goes after Brodsky with allegations that, if true, would constitute serious misconduct under Illinois bar rules.
The motion claims that “Attorney Brodsky expected that Drew Peterson would be his ticket to the legal elite.” It states that the appetite for the publicity outstripped his experience, declaring “[Brodsky] was poorly equipped to try a case of this magnitude, resulting in hornbook errors and a smorgasbord of ethical violations. Individually and cumulatively Brodsky singlehandedly deprived Drew of his right to effective assistance of and conflict-free counsel.”
If further alleges that Brodsky threatened to release damaging details about Peterson if he fired him. The memorandum quotes Brodsky as allegedly stating in a November 24th letter that “… this is of course the last thing you or I would want, but this could happen as an unintended consequence of unfounded ineffective assistance accusation, which is not fully thought through.” It further states that Brodsky “misrepresented his qualifications” by claiming to have handled other homicide cases.
The motion says that Brodsky turned the case into a “carnival.” This includes Brodsky’s pitching of a “Win A Date With Drew” contest with a radio station. Other attorneys condemned Brodsky’s handling of the case at the time.
In addition to the alleged threats and representation, the motion says that Brodsky cashed in on the media appearances by charging media outlets for “hotel stays, meals, and spa treatments for he and his wife.”
Those are all extremely serious ethical allegations and would likely attract the scrutiny of the bar.
Brodsky came out with both guns glazing in response, calling Peterson “desperate” and adding “[h]e’ll say anything and he has an unethical lawyer … who will let him do that.” He also accused them of filing clearly false factual statements.
None of this is likely to result in a new trial under the very high standard applicable to such motions. Moreover, if Peterson was a victim of such methods, he was also a willing participant. The question is whether the bar will take up the issue sua sponte or wait for a formal complaint to be filed by one of the lawyers in the case. This goes beyond the usual ineffective claims in such motions due to the claim of misrepresentation and threats.