A former workers' compensation arbitrator's law license was suspended for two years by an Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission hearing panel.
Jennifer Carril, formerly Jennifer Teague of Shiloh, was accused in a four-count complaint involving improper use of her position to speed payment of her own workers' compensation case, making improper statements to opposing lawyers about the lawyers who appeared in front of her, and attempting to hide a hearing from the media in a high-profile workers' compensation case involving an Illinois State Police trooper.
The ARDC asked for a three-year suspension. Jim Williams, Carril's attorney, asked for a 45-day suspension.
"I seriously doubt we will appeal," Williams said. "We likely will accept punishment and move on with life."
Carril has refused to comment.
In the 68-page opinion filed Monday, Carril was found to have committed misconduct in three of the four counts.
The first count deals with Carril's handling of the workers' compensation case of former Illinois State Police Trooper Matt Mitchell. The trooper was severely injured and two Collinsville sisters killed in a 2007 crash. Mitchell was driving 126 mph, talking on his cellphone and sending and receiving e-mails on his dash-mounted computer in heavy, day-after-Thanksgiving traffic on Interstate 64 east of O'Fallon before the crash that killed Jessica and Kelli Uhl.
Carril tried to keep the media from Mitchell's workers' compensation hearing in order to avoid publicity, according to emails that she sent to Mitchell's lawyer Kerri O'Sullivan and obtained by the News-Democrat under the Freedom of Information Act. Carril changed the time and place of the hearing to keep it "on the sly with no press," one of Carril's emails stated.
"(Carril's) attempt to conduct a hearing at a time and location so as to prevent the news media from attending is very disturbing and clearly unacceptable. The right of the news media and of the public to have access to worker's compensation proceedings should not be infringed on in any manner. By attempting to prevent the news media from attending a hearing, (Carril) acted contrary to the interest of justice," the opinion stated.
A second count accuses Carril of having improper conversations with Caryn Nadenbush and Elizabeth Barringer, attorneys who worked in 2009 and 2010 for the workers' compensation defense firm Hennessey and Roach.
In emails, Nandenbush asked Carril how much she thinks cases are worth. Nadenbush and Barringer also exchanged emails with Carril about opposing counsel in another case, calling him an "idiot," "annoying" and "a bad lawyer."
"(Carril's) misconduct in this case is far more egregious than that committed by O'Sullivan, Barringer or Nadenbush," the opinion stated. "(Carril's) misconduct occurred in more cases and involved many more ex parte communications. Also, (Carril) was the presiding official in the workers' compensation cases and, thus, the person who was required to be, and to appear to be, an impartial arbitrator."
The remaining two counts deal with Carril's handling of a workers' compensation case against the Illinois Department of Corrections. During a hearing in April, Teresa Omachi, an assistant attorney general who handled workers' compensation cases, testified that in August 2010, she received a telephone call from Carril in which the arbitrator offered to accommodate Omachi by scheduling a convenient hearing in a difficult case if, in return, Carril could be guaranteed a speedy resolution of her own workers' comp claim for cubital tunnel syndrome.
The hearing panel could not find "by clear and convincing evidence" that Carril offered a special setting in exchange for getting a 180-day waiting period for payment waved in her own workers' comp case, but did find that she engaged in misconduct by issuing a "carelessly and poorly written email" sent to Omachi in the case.
"The email clearly compromised the appearance of a tribunal being fair and impartial," the opinion stated.
During the hearing in April, Carril testified on her behalf, acknowledging she made mistakes and acted in an inappropriate manner, and said she was sorry.
"However, after observing (Carril) and listening to testimony, we find that she had no remorse for the adverse effect her misconduct had on the legal profession and proceedings before the Workers' Compensation Commission," the opinion stated.
"We find that the regret she expressed was primarily for herself, that is, for the loss of her career and her resulting financial hardship. Additionally, we do not believe she fully understands the seriousness of her misconduct."