Monday, February 9, 2009
An Illinois hearing board has recommended a three-month suspension of an attorney who failed to withdraw from two matters in circumstances where the cases were ongoing and the clients were relying on the attorney to continue to represent them. In one matter, the board noted:
Respondent argued that he was unaware of his responsibility to withdraw from Jeffery's divorce proceeding. We do not find this argument plausible. Even if Respondent was unaware of his duty to withdraw, he still made no effort to contact Jeffery or forward the documents and correspondence Respondent received from opposing counsel regarding the divorce proceedings to him. Respondent knew Jeffery was not receiving notice of the proceedings because opposing counsel directed all of his correspondence and filings to Respondent. In fact, opposing counsel informed Respondent of his responsibility to withdraw from the case if he was not going to represent Jeffery. The evidence showed Respondent had numerous means of locating his client, but he made no effort to contact Jeffery and inform him about the case.
The board found that both clients had been harmed and that the attorney had shown no remorse:
Respondent neglected two client matters by failing to withdraw from his clients cases, caused harm to his clients, blamed his clients for not communicating with him and failed to demonstrate any remorse or understanding of the gravity of his actions. Respondent did not present any significant mitigating evidence. Respondent also characterized his actions as the mere errors of an inexperienced attorney when in fact he had been practicing for 10 years at the time the misconduct took place. In sum, Respondent failed to show the panel that he understands his duties and responsibilities under the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.
Considering the nature of the Respondent's misconduct, the evidence in aggravation and the lack of any significant evidence in mitigation, this Panel recommends Respondent be suspended for three months and until he completes the ARDC Professional Responsibility Institute.