October 29, 2008
Trolling For Business
The Illinois Review Board overturned a hearing board finding that a lawyer had violated ethics rules by soliciting personal injury clients through an agent in one instance while sustaining that charge in other circumstances. The decision discusses the proof required to sustain the charge:
The Administrator presented evidence that Respondent paid approximately $100,000 to the individuals named above but he had no record of the specific work they performed. Respondent admitted that several of them referred cases to him. Respondent gave testimony explaining the payments he made, but the Hearing Board did not find his explanations credible. The Hearing Board’s credibility assessment did not shift the burden of proof to Respondent. As we set forth, supra, the Hearing Board was not required to accept Respondent’s explanation simply because it was not directly rebutted.
Moreover, contrary to Respondent’s contention, the Hearing Board did not ignore the evidence pertaining to the work that Mejia performed. The Hearing Board acknowledged that Mejia probably performed some services for Respondent, but Respondent’s evidence did not explain the substantial payments that he made to Mejia. Ultimately, Respondent cannot overcome the Hearing Board’s finding that he was not credible. The Hearing Board properly relied on the circumstantial evidence presented by the Administrator and the reasonable inferences that it drew from that evidence in finding that Respondent committed the misconduct charged in Count II. While it would have been possible for the Hearing Board to come to the opposite conclusion, it is not appropriate to reverse the Hearing Board's findings just because an opposite conclusion could have been reached or is reasonable.
The review board recommends that a sixy day suspension be imposed for the misconduct found, with a dissent in favor of a reprimand. (Mike Frisch)
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