Ethics Quiz: Is This A Trustworthy Lawyer?

“Your Honor! I object!”

Sarah Naughton, for 8 years a Cook County (Chicago) prosecutor, was arrested and charged after she and a male companion caused a disturbance in an adult store when they were asked to leave ( they appear to have been bombed). After banging on the windows and calling out obscenities, the two got in a tussle with the store’s employees, and Sarah allegedly bit one of them on the leg.  She also apparently pulled the infamous, “Do you know who I am?” card, to which I guess I would have answered, “Lindsay Lohan?”

Here is video of the aftermath: the prosecutor is the one wailing and insulting the officers as she sits handcuffed on the pavement.

She has been placed on administrative leave for now.

I know: we all have our bad days and nights, and some of us don’t handle liquor very well. Naughton apparently hasn’t done anything like this before; on the other hand, her conduct does not exactly burnish the reputation of Chicago Law enforcement. Your Ethics Quiz, as we head into an ethically challenging weekend (as they all are):

Does this unfortunate private behavior in this one incident show that she lacks sufficient trustworthiness and professionalism to represent the Cook County prosecutor’s office?

My guess would be that she suffers from an alcohol addiction; at least, she can be probably counted on to take that position to save her job. If that is the case, if she can be persuaded to undergo treatment, if she does so successfully and continues to deal with her problem, then she should be allowed to return to her job. I say this after considerable thought and forbearance, because my first instinct would be to can her for embarrassing the office.

What do you think?


Pointer: ABA Journal

Facts: Chicago Tribune

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

10 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Is This A Trustworthy Lawyer?

    • The only ethical thing to do is to can her, which is not to say if she has a problem that they shouldn’t do what is in their power to help but she cannot continue to serve as a prosecutor. Her position is one where judgment is of the utmost concern. An incident such as this threatens the public’s trust and poses a real question to the competency of the office.

  1. “Private behavior??!” You mean, off-the-job.

    I’ll give Naughton the benefit of doubt that she may have been asking someone to remind her of her own name. I don’t think she should necessarily lose her job (that’s my job – to lose mine, I mean). But, she should only very slowly, and as gradually as practical, be allowed to resume the full-time work she did before her violent spree. She should be required to prove herself all over again, every step of the way – with no guarantee against dismissal/termination at any time while on “the way back.” Some kind of written reprimand ought to be put in her employment record that empowers her employer to dismiss her outright in the event of any further conduct deemed unbecoming an employee of Cook County.

    (I had to add that last sentence, just so I could laugh.)

    • There are plenty of people who would line up for her job and I am sure that the prosecutor’s office really can’t afford to pay someone who is not going to be able to operate at 100 percent.

      • Steven, no argument with you about others lining up. I do hope Jack will follow up this story so we blog-followers can see if Naughton keeps her job. But I have no doubt that THIS prosecutor’s office has LONG found ways to afford to pay LOTS of people who, for one reason or another, will NEVER be able to operate at 100 percent. (I’m laughing again.)

  2. After 8 years its unlikely she’s on any level of probation, so immediately losing her job is probably not gonna happen. Eeyooure is so right! Because of the location this whole episode is giggle inducing. Its too bad the Cook Country DA doesn’t owe the Alaskan Attorney General a guest prosecutor swap of two years duration. Methinks time spent prosecuting law breakers in somewhere like Bethel, Alaska, would do wonders for Squiress Naughton’s public behavior.

  3. Fire her immediately

    Reason: “in vino veritas”. She believes that as a prosecutor, she’s above the law. “Do you know who I am?” .

    There’s all too much evidence that she may be right – the doctrine of “sovereign immunity” has been stretched so much that while a civil prosecution is always a possibility – the taxpayer paying any fine – criminal prosecution is off the table, even for “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”, withholding or even fabricating evidence, in order to get a result.

    She’s by no means the only one, and to single her out is unfair. Many are worse. But it’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

  4. She has only been on the job for four years, she is a 2008 graduate of John Marshall. And YES, she needs to lose her job. She is not only a striking example of an utter lack of respect for the profession but also for her position and the importance of it. I have seen lawyers fired for significantly less and her behavior insults everything the legal profession should aim to stand for.

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