Judicial candidate faces possible bar complaint

A state bar complaint may be filed against a local attorney and judicial candidate after she was allegedly seen standing outside her opponent’s courtroom last week soliciting business from defendants going before him.

The attorney, Lillian Donahue, was reportedly promising to get the judge, District Judge Robert Lane, recused from their cases if they hired her as their attorney.

Brian Hardy, an attorney who often represents the county and town in legal matters, made statements during an April 28 proceeding in Lane’s courtroom that he saw Donohue approach several people as they exited the courtroom that morning stating she would represent them if they wanted the judge off of their case.

“There’s a candidate who says she’s running against you who’s standing outside this door. As anyone walks out of this courtroom — she’s approached me, she approached a couple other people on the way out the door — she said if any one of us wanted to get our case recused from you having to hear this, then she will go ahead and sign her name to any case that we’re willing to, to have it recused out of your courtroom,” Hardy told the judge.

“She said you gave her some kind of recusal order that said from February to November, and I’m just going off of my recollection from an hour or half-hour ago, that you issued some kind of an order that said any case that she sat on between February and November…she’s automatically recused from.”

The judge asked the attorney if he knew how serious the allegation was, to which Hardy replied he wouldn’t have said it if it weren’t true.

Lane reportedly signed the recusal order Donohue was said to be using to bring in new clients so there could be no accusation of bias against her clients during the campaign season since they are both running for the same judicial seat.

“Let me think about this because this is all very unusual,” the judge said. “She’s not supposed to be soliciting people out in the hallway to get their cases recused. A complaint is going to have to be made to the state bar.”

Hardy said he had further concerns that the defendant he was arguing against in the case before the judge may have hired Donohue specifically so that Lane could no longer preside over his case.

“I know (the defendant) on multiple cases as I’ve sat here he has tried to get you recused. And I have an issue because it appears he may be trying to use this particular attorney as an impropriety to try to get you recused,” the attorney said.

While the judge said it would have been OK for the defendant to hire Donohue as his attorney, it would have been improper for him to hire her specifically to have the case heard by another judge.

“I can’t allow the system to be manipulated by people. It’s not a game to play with the system. And if she’s out soliciting people so that I’ll have to be recused and there’s a reasonable reference there that that’s the reason (the defendant) is doing it I can’t let the system be defeated or manipulated in that manner,” Lane explained.

The judge then decided to send the matter to a senior judge for review.

Because of the circumstances, Hardy told the judge he would likely be filing a motion to have Donohue disqualified from representing the defendant on the case.

Lane said it would then be up to the senior judge if he should stay recused from the case or if Donohue would in fact be disqualified from sitting in as defense counsel and the case would be sent back to Lane’s courtroom for further proceedings.

Attempts to reach Donohue for comment on the matter were unsuccessful before press time.