Monday, October 19, 2009

Misconduct Discovered By Client Review Of Court Web Page

An Illinois hearing board has recommended a two-year suspension without automatic reinstatement of an attorney hired to defend a lawsuit. The client discovered the neglect through the court's web site:

In September 2008, Kenyon [the client] discovered from the circuit clerk’s website that the Respondent had missed a few court dates and that a default judgment had been entered against Kenyon because of his failure to appear. Kenyon then tried to reach the Respondent by telephone without success. The Respondent did not reply to Kenyon’s messages. Kenyon also went to the Respondent’s office and left a note under the door. He noticed that there were numerous other notes under the door. The Respondent did not reply to Kenyon’s note. A few days later, Kenyon saw on the circuit clerk’s website that the Respondent had filed (on September 9, 2008) a motion to vacate the default judgment. However, Kenyon had no contact with the Respondent about the motion. About two weeks later, Kenyon went to the Respondent’s office and found it empty.

Kenyon then hired another attorney, Bret Kepley, to represent him in the above case. Mr. Kepley filed his appearance on October 31, 2008.  Mr. Kepley has kept Kenyon informed and they have met "numerous times." Kenyon said that the matters against him in the case have been resolved.

Finally, Mr. Kenyon said that the Respondent has not refunded the $750 retainer that Kenyon paid.

The hearing panel also described the efforts to serve the accused attorney:

Respondent left the Champaign area and was living in an extended-stay hotel in the St. Louis, Missouri area.  In March 2009, Burton [a  bar investigator] and another investigator went to St Louis in order to locate the Respondent. They found that the Respondent was registered at a hotel in Bridgeton, Missouri. They went to that hotel, introduced themselves, and asked the desk clerk for the Respondent’s room number. The desk clerk would not provide the room number, but did connect Burton to the Respondent’s room by telephone from the front desk.

Burton heard the telephone ring and then a man answered. Burton identified himself and asked "is this Gregory German." The man replied "yes, it is." Burton said he recognized the voice as that of the Respondent, based upon the conversation Burton had with the Respondent in April 2008. Burton asked the Respondent to come to the lobby so that Burton could personally serve him with the disciplinary complaint. The Respondent said he did not want to go to the lobby, and suggested that Burton leave the complaint at the front desk. Burton explained to him that the complaint had to be personally served on him. The Respondent again refused to go to the lobby, and he hung up. Burton waited in the lobby for about one hour, but the Respondent did not appear. Burton then exited the hotel without leaving the complaint at the front desk.

The complaint in this matter was sent by certified mail to the Respondent’s registered address and to the hotel in Bridgeton, Missouri. A signed return receipt from the mail sent to the hotel was later received at the ARDC office. Burton looked at the signature on the return receipt, which was some kind of "lines and scribble," and said it was "exactly the same as on previous documents that we had on file that we received from Mr. German."

We have deleted the citations to the transcript and exhibits. (Mike Frisch)

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