Supreme Court censures St. Louis workers' comp lawyer, suspends East St. Louis attorney

By Bethany Krajelis | Sep 18, 2012

The Illinois Supreme Court has censured one area attorney and suspended another.

The court this week censured Elizabeth Jane Barringer, a St. Louis attorney accused of having ex parte communications with an arbitrator, and issued a six-month suspension to Lawrence Joseph Hess, an East St. Louis attorney alleged to have filed a frivolous lawsuit against a former client.

Barringer and Hess were two of more than 20 attorneys who were disciplined by the court during its September term, which comes to a close this week.

In July 2011, the ARDC filed complaints against Barringer and fellow St. Louis attorneys Caryn Nadenbush and Kerry O'Sullivan.

The complaints accused the trio of having ex parte communications with Jennifer Teague, an arbitrator for the Workers' Compensation Commission who later resigned.

At the time the complaints were filed, Barringer and Nadenbush worked at Hennessy & Roach and O'Sullivan practiced at Brown & Crouppen.

The state high court in January censured O'Sullivan and issued the same discipline this week to Barringer. It also ordered Barringer to complete an ARDC professional seminar.

Nadenbush has not yet received discipline from the state high court. An ARDC hearing board in July recommended that the Supreme Court suspend her for 90 days.

The ARDC complaint filed against Barringer alleges that she exchanged ex parte emails with Teague in 2009 and 2010 about cases she had pending before Teague at the commission.

The complaint accused the two attorneys of emailing about cases, as well about Barringer's clients and opposing counsel.

In emails to Teague, the complaint shows that Barringer referred to one of her clients as "crazy pro se" and called opposing counsel an "idiot."

Hess' 90-day suspension stems from complaints the ARDC filed in 2010 against him and Valparaiso, Ind. attorney Bruce Carr.

The ARDC accused the two attorneys of bringing a lawsuit against former clients of Hess for the purpose of harassment.

Hess represented Ronald and Cathy Loyd during his time at Kanoski & Associates, which he joined in 2001.

After Hess was fired in 2008, Carr sent a letter to the Loyds, stating that Hess was still responsible for their suit.

Carr then filed notices of attorney's lien in three matters in which Hess previously represented the plaintiffs, claiming that Hess's attorney-client relationships continued despite his termination from the firm.

He also filed a lawsuit on Hess' behalf against the Loyds for breach of contract, unjust enrichment and tortious interference with an attorney's lien.

The circuit and appellate courts ruled against Hess on the attorney's lien matter, as well as his suit against the Loyds.

An ARDC hearing board in 2011 recommended that Hess be suspended for six months and Carr for nine months.

Both attorneys filed exceptions, but the majority of the ARDC review board upheld the hearing board's recommendation.

The Supreme Court this week denied Hess' motion to file exceptions and suspended him for six-months. He was also ordered to reimburse the Client Protection Program Trust Fund for any payments arising from his conduct.

The ARDC website shows that the court has not yet taken action in Carr's disciplinary case.

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