Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The Illinois Review Board rejected a hearing board's finding of no misconduct in a matter where a lawyer had submitted inaccurate caseload information in order to secure a grant for a legal services agency, based on her supervisor's assurances that the accuracy of the information did not matter:
Wolf testified that, while not directly telling her to fabricate numbers, Stulberg [a non-lawyer but Wolf's supervisor] told Wolf to "do whatever (she) had to do to not show such a huge discrepancy [in caseload numbers]" Stulberg did not give Wolf any direction as to how to go about doing this. There was no one else at CDEL who had worked on Client Data Sheets in the past and Wolf did not receive any explanation as to how the numbers used in the past had been calculated.
Wolf understood that Stulberg did not want to be interrogated by the grantors about a large discrepancy in the numbers; Wolf did not understand that the numbers themselves were significant in determining whether or not CDEL would receive the grant. Wolf relied on Stulberg’s experience and assumed that the number of cases was not a material issue. Wolf also assumed that Stulberg, who was a long-time friend of Wolf’s family, would not put Wolf in a position of doing something that was not right.
The board found a Rule 8.4 violation and recommended that the Supreme Court impose a reprimand. The board further rejected the Administrator's request for a remand:
...the Administrator’s case showed that, while there was a violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4), given all the circumstances, it was a relatively minor one. Wolf did not act with an intent to deceive the organizations from which the grants were sought. She relied on Stulberg’s representation that the numbers did not really matter. Once she learned that the information she provided was material, Wolf acted promptly to correct the error. She admitted her wrongdoing and is clearly contrite. Wolf’s disclosures ultimately benefited CDEL and paved the way for greater accuracy in its recordkeeping. While there was potential for harm, Wolf’s actions do not appear to have actually caused any harm. While CDEL withdrew the grant proposals it had submitted based on Wolf’s numbers, thereby losing that funding for the year, the extent to which this was caused by Wolf’s conduct, as opposed to the conduct of others, is uncertain.
The Administrator seeks a remand. However, even if Wolf presented a case to the Hearing Board, she would be bound by her judicial admission, which established a violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4). Based on the Administrator’s case alone, the evidence does not warrant any greater sanction than a reprimand. Given this fact, a remand to the Hearing Board so that Wolf could present a case would not serve any useful purpose. Consequently, we decline to remand.