Jim Dey | Getting even not always all it's cracked up to be

Jim Dey | Getting even not always all it's cracked up to be

Don't get mad, get even.

That political aphorism has an obvious appeal, one that stokes people's natural desire for vengeance. Because it's incomplete, it's not sound advice. Here's what's missing — "don't get caught getting even."

Former Bloomington lawyer Drew Quitschau got mad and decided to get even. Unfortunately for him, he also got caught. Big mistake.

Having sewn the wind, he is now reaping the whirlwind. A hearing panel of the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission recently recommended a six-month suspension of Quitschau's license to practice law with the proviso that he not be allowed to do so "until further order of the court."

The latter condition means that Quitschau will have to apply for reinstatement to the bar and bear the burden of proving why he should be reinstated. ARDC Executive Director James Grogan said the reinstatement process takes an average of two years to complete. "That is a huge condition," Grogan said.

As originally related in a column that ran last summer, Quitschau was a divorce lawyer in Bloomington who frequently faced off in court with another local divorce lawyer, Michelle Mosby-Scott. Their styles conflicted, Quitschau said.

He testified that he tried to get "people through the process as efficiently and quickly and painlessly as possible." His perception was that Mosby-Scott's goal "was always to maximize the benefit to her client in any case," driving up costs and dragging things out.

So Quitschau decided to engage in a series of stealth personal attacks on Mosby-Scott.

He created false and unflattering reviews of her skill as a lawyer, including on Martindale.com and Lawyers.com. He also created an account for the married Mosby-Scott on Match.com, coming up with a false profile that emphasized a healthy appetite.

"... her favorite hot spots are the grocery store, all restaurants, the Pizza Ranch, all buffets and NASCAR," Quitschau falsely wrote, according to the ARDC panel.

It was an ugly business, and that's what it was intended to be.

"He said he was frustrated and angry with her, was trying to be mean and trying to make fun of her," the ARDC quoted Quitschau as saying.

Eventually, these postings came to Mosby-Scott's attention, and they had the intended effect.

Mosby-Scott testified to being very upset at being the target of this campaign, suffering from ulcers and needing medication to help her sleep at night.

"At some point, she and her husband became worried about the safety of their family. For about six or eight months, they would not let their 13-year-old son stay home alone. Their young children were not allowed to be outside unless the oldest brother or parent were with them," the ARDC report states.

To make a long story short, investigators in early 2017 followed the computer trail to Quitschau, who was summarily fired from the Bloomington law firm where he worked.

Mosby-Scott obtained a court order of protection against him and settled litigation with Quitschau for $100,000 and full disclosure of all the malicious actions he took against her.

The legal community in Bloomington-Normal buzzed with surprise at the behavior of the strait-laced Quitschau. Even Mosby-Scott was stunned by what he admitted doing.

She described herself as "incredibly surprised" to learn Quitschau was the source of her problems, describing his behavior as "aberrant" and a "very huge lapse in judgment."

Once caught, Quitschau came clean, describing his conduct as an indefensible reaction to the stress of handling divorce cases. He moved to Peoria, where he now works for a law firm. Much of his work still involves divorce work.

If he was hoping that his mea culpas, his legal settlement and his dismissal from his old law firm would mitigate his situation, it did — but not by much.

The three-judge hearing panel concluded that Quitschau is a "very competent attorney" who is "well-respected in the legal profession."

"Nevertheless, he engaged in egregious misconduct directed at another attorney that continued over a lengthy period of time and caused significant harm. In fact, his acts of dishonesty continued until he was caught," the three-person ARDC panel stated.

"We find no basis in the record for concluding that (Quitschau) would not again engage in misconduct when confronted by the stress, pressure and frustration of practicing law," the panel stated in its opinion.

The ARDC staff recommended a two-year suspension and no reinstatement until further order of the court. But the hearing panel recommended a "relatively short suspension" that will allow Quitschau to "present evidence, if he has such evidence, to support reinstatement in a relative short period of time," showing that "he is able to practice law in an ethical manner."

That, of course, raises an interesting question — how does Quitschau prove that he won't do in the future what he did in the past?

Grogan said meeting that burden requires a suspended lawyer to show that he has his personal and professional life in order and the presentation of evidence of "exemplary activity" during the suspension period.

He can ask an ARDC review panel to modify the penalty. Then the matter goes to the Illinois Supreme Court for a final decision.

It's a long, costly and embarrassing road for Quitschau to travel, but still not a surprising price to pay for getting mad, getting even and getting caught.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or by phone at 217-351-5369.