Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reinstatement Proposed For Attorney Disbarred For Child Enticement

An Illinois hearing board has recommended the reinstatement of an attorney who was disbarred in 2003. The basis of the disbarment was a conviction in Wisconsin for a single count of child enticement. He had been engaged in an internet chat with a person he thought was a 13 year old girl. He then went to Milwaukee for oral sex and was arrested.

Prior to his disbarment, he had worked for a non-lawyer capacity for a bank. He had lost his job after 25 years in the wake of a change in management. He secured a position with another bank and the issue of his candor in the securing of that employment was raised in this proceeding.

Overall, the board was satisfied that reinstatement was in the public interest:

Petitioner’s conduct since he was disbarred favors reinstatement. It is undisputed that Petitioner had effectively addressed the psychological issues that lead to his conviction. Immediately after being arrested, Petitioner obtained psychological treatment. He sought treatment from Dr. Goldberg, an accomplished and well-respected psychiatrist. Petitioner saw Dr. Goldberg twice per week from March 1, 2000, to December 30, 2002, for a total of 175 to 200 visits. Additionally, between mid-2001 and late 2002, Petitioner and his wife saw a marriage counselor. Also, from March 2001 to December 2002, he received sex offender treatment, as required in the criminal sentence.

As a result of these therapies, Petitioner has effectively treated the causes of his misconduct, and restored the relationships in his life. Dr. Goldberg concluded that when Petitioner engaged in the misconduct, he was suffering from reactive clinical depression caused by an extended period of family and work related problems. Petitioner’s criminal conduct was a result of that depression. After treating Petitioner, Dr. Goldberg concluded that Petitioner no longer suffered from depression and had an excellent prognosis. He also found that Petitioner currently has constructive ways to deal with life’s problems and subsequent depression episodes are unlikely.

Even the Administrator’s expert, Dr. Henry, concluded that Petitioner does not currently suffer active symptoms of major psychiatric illness and is a minimal risk of repeating his criminal conduct. Dr. Henry also testified that after completing therapy with Dr. Goldberg and gaining other insights into his conduct, Petitioner is well equipped to avoid a recurrence.

We were also impressed with [his wife's] testimony. She has observed substantial changes in Petitioner since his conviction. He worked diligently with Dr. Goldberg and their marriage counselor to addresses the problems that lead to his conviction. His relationship with her and their children has dramatically improved.

Petitioner has been a productive member of society since his disbarment. He has been gainfully employed at the Bank of Waukegan since January 2001, in a position of significant responsibility. He oversees the management of trust, estate and retirement accounts and the bank’s investments. He also is responsible for the bank’s business development and coordinates outside audits. One of his business associates, Mr. Brennan, convincingly testified that Petitioner is knowledgeable and concerned with the best interests of the Bank’s clients.

Additionally, Petitioner is active in his synagogue. He is on the funeral committee, which assists members of the congregation plan and organize funerals. It requires a substantial time and emotional commitment. Petitioner has also served on the synagogue’s board of directors and executive committee. Further, Petitioner oftentimes leads the services when Rabbi Taylor is unavailable. Petitioner also makes charitable contributions. Specifically, he donates tickets to White Sox games to various organizations, and started and maintains a scholarship fund at Highland Park High School to send students to music summer camp and pay for music lessons.

The Administrator argues that some of Petitioner’s activities should not be viewed favorably, because he engaged in the same activities before and after his conviction. We reject this argument, and will not penalize Petitioner for continuing to do the same good deeds after he engaged in misconduct as he did before the misconduct. Petitioner could have stopped participating in those activities after his conviction, but he continued to do them.

Moreover, we are convinced that Petitioner is currently knowledgeable of the law. Petitioner has taken seminars offered by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Lake County Bar Association, and the Lake County Estate Planning Counsel. He has also attended a two day wealth management course at Notre Dame University. He reads numerous publications related to wealth management, trust law and estate planning. He is a member of the Illinois Bar Association, and receives publication from that organization.

The Administrator argues that Petitioner’s conduct since disbarment is diminished by the fact that he was dishonest about his conviction with his current employer. The undisputed facts establish that Petitioner did not fully disclose his crime to Bank of Waukegan. In January 2001, when completing the job application, he failed to answer the question regarding whether he had been convicted of a felony. He generally told bank officials that he was convicted of a crime, but did not explain any further. In February 2001, after he was given the job, he learned that the Bank needed the consent of state bank regulators when employing a convicted felon. He drafted a memo explaining the conviction, but made inaccurate statements in the memo. In March 2001, Petitioner drafted a second memo and again made several inaccurate statements. Petitioner admitted he made the misrepresentations in an effort to keep his job.

We do not condone Petitioner’s lack of candor in the memos, and view them as a serious lapse of judgment. However, the seriousness of Petitioner’s conduct is mitigated by the fact that after thoroughly investigating Petitioner criminal conviction, not only did the state bank regulators also approve of Petitioner’s continued employment, but the Bank continued to employ Petitioner. He should have been more candid about his conviction; however, when this fact is considered with all the other facts, it is insufficient to deny reinstatement.

I would not be surprised if this proposed result was appealed to the Review Board by the Administrator. (Mike Frisch)

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