Monday, July 2, 2007

PD Seeks Fee: Reprimand

An Illinois public defender who was permitted to take private cases was reprimanded by a hearing board. The attorney had been appointed to a case where the defendant was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He told the client's grandmother "that he could spend more time on the case if she paid him $3,000 in attorney fees." He received a check in that amount and negotiated a plea that led to a probation sentence. He did not enter an appearance as retained counsel. The grandmother stopped payment on the check. The lawyer tried to get the grandmother arrested when she declined to replace the check. No criminal charges were brought.

The hearing board found that the lawyer did not take necessary steps to explain alternatives so that the client could make an informed decision about retaining him as counsel. The failure to enter an appearence as retained counsel violated Illinois Rule 3.3(a)(8)(attorney must disclose identity of client and persons who employ counsel unless information is privileged or irrelevant). A dissent would find the lawyer credible and impose no discipline. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2007/07/pd-seeks-feerep.html

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See In re L.R., 640 A.2d 697(D.C. 2005). An attorney who was appointed by the court to represent an indigent defendant solicited a fee from the defendant. The Court ordered the attorney to be informally admonished. The Court reasoned that the attorney's conduct, charging a fee to a court-appointed indigent defendant, adversely affects the Crimnal Justice Act ("CJA") program (providing for court-appointed counsel to indigent defendants), which is an integral part of the judicial process of the D.C. courts. The Court stated that conduct that violates the CJA is "presumptively prejudicial to the administration of the CJA system, if for not other reason than because it likely will instill in the defendant that the quality of his representation may yet depend upon gathering together funds to compensate the attorney whom he has not selected. . . ."

Posted by: Pubert | Jul 3, 2007 10:50:33 AM

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