In this video, Mark Brennan’s characterization of a witness’ “mousy presence” and his assertion that the hearing was “a witch trial” draws successive contempt citations from Presiding Disciplinary Judge William Lucero. Video: Law Week Colorado.
“I have never been in a courtroom where an attorney laughs out loud at a witness’ testimony.”
— Presiding Disciplinary Judge William Lucero
By Matt Masich, LAW WEEK COLORADO
DENVER — Colorado attorney Mark E. Brennan did himself no favors Tuesday during a disciplinary hearing to decide his professional fate, when he alternately referred to opposing council as a “worm,” and implied the father of one witness was a Klansman.
Midway through Day 1 of the three-day hearing, Brennan had already racked up two contempt citations — at $250 a piece — in a courtroom drama that could help establish the line between acceptable courtroom bluster and misconduct.
Brennan, in solo practice in Centennial, is accused of violating the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct by engaging in confrontational behavior throughout a 2006 federal jury trial, Cadorna v. City and County of Denver – as detailed in the current issue of Law Week Colorado.
During opening arguments at the disciplinary hearing, prosecutor Kim Ikeler of the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel said that Brennan intentionally flaunted Cadorna trial Judge Robert Blackburn’s instructions as a plan to prejudice the jury in his favor. This, along with Brennan’s allegedly abusive behavior to court staff and opposing counsel, violated two of the state rules governing lawyers, he said. One forbids “conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal,” and another forbids “conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
On Tuesday, Brennan, representing himself, engaged in the same behavior attorney regulation cited as misconduct in its complaint: He repeatedly interrupted Presiding Disciplinary Judge William Lucero by speaking over him, and expressing displeasure with the proceeding.
Here are a few indecorous highlights from the opening arguments and examination of the first witness:
* While Brennan was speaking at the podium, opposing counsel Ikeler approached the podium to raise an objection. Brennan protested loudly, waving his arm at Ikeler to shoo him away and telling Judge Lucero, “I’m not going to have this worm standing next to me.”
* Ikeler later called as his first witness Ginny Kramer, the courtroom deputy during the Cadorna trial. During questioning, she testified the Cadorna trial lasted seven days instead of four because of Brennan’s bad behavior. At this, Brennan gave a loud, “Ha!” Lucero disapproved, saying, “I have never been in a courtroom where an attorney laughs out loud at a witness’ testimony.”
* Kramer also testified that Brennan openly defied the judge in the Cadorna trial. In his cross-examination of the southern-accented Kramer, Brennan claimed that she personally didn’t like him. He then asked her, “Was your daddy a member of the Klan in Alabama?” Lucero sustained an objection.
* Later, when Brennan asked if Kramer had ever been represented by a lawyer and she replied she had, during a divorce, Brennan asked if she and her husband were fighting over who got the “hound dog and shotgun.”
Far from winning over Judge Lucero and the rest of the three-person panel that will decide the outcome of the hearing, Brennan’s behavior seemed to alienate everyone in the courtroom. By mid-afternoon, he was slapped with two contempt citations.
In the end, the panel must decide whether Brennan’s confrontational style in the Cadorna case was “conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal,” or if it was an unintended consequence of his lawyering style.
The disciplinary proceedings continue today and tomorrow.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters