August 14, 2007
Duty To Communicate Settlement Offer
The Illinois Review Board has recommended a four month suspension of an attorney who has practiced for 34 years without any prior discipline. The attorney failed to communicate an offer of settlement to his client, apparently because the offer was "insufficient to pay a significant portion of the attorneys fees incurred..." The hearing panel rejected the suggestion that a fee-shifting statute deprived the client of the authority to control the settlement decision.
The board rejected a hearing panel recommendation for more severe discipline. The hearing panel had found that the accused lawyer had lied at the hearing in claiming that the offer had been presented to and rejected by the client. The board found that the attorney had corrected himself on this claim on the second hearing day (apparently several months after the first day) and that the correction negated the earlier testimony. The board believes that lawyers in bar discipline cases should be encouraged to correct false testimony and that a finding of an aggravating factor here would discourage such corrections/modifications by accused lawyers. A second count of similar alleged misconduct was dismissed because the client died prior to the hearing. (Mike Frisch)
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