Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Illinois Review Board affirmed a finding that an attorney had not engaged in a concurrent conflict of interest in representing two defendants in an eviction action. He had only communicated with one of the clients, who it turned out was defrauding the other client. The second client hired her own attorney, thus resolving the issue. The board agreed with the hearing panel that the attorney had no basis to believe that the interests of the two clients were in conflict:
The evidence showed that Fisher [opposing counsel] told Respondent in May 2004 that Sparks was "a bad guy" and sent Respondent a copy of an order from the federal district court directing Sparks to stop holding himself out as the landlord and collecting rents for a property in South Holland. Respondent testified that he considered Fisher’s comments about Sparks to be posturing that often occurs in his cases. Fisher admitted that he had no personal knowledge regarding where Sparks lived or whether he was holding himself out as the owner of the Saginaw Avenue property. Rather, Fisher suspected that Sparks might be doing so. Given Fisher’s lack of knowledge regarding Sparks’ living arrangements, his comment to Respondent and the order pertaining to a different property was not sufficient to establish as a matter of law that Sparks was defrauding Sims [the second client] or that Respondent had knowledge of any fraud against Sims that would give rise to a conflict of interest.
The board concluded that the lawyer's failure to consult with the second client and making settlement overtures absent such consultation "reflected poorly on the legal profession" and merited the imposition of a public censure. (Mike Frisch)