Wednesday, December 9, 2009
A panel of the Illinois Hearing Board has recommended a one-year suspension based on findings of misconduct involving sexual behavior towards clients both in the office and over the phone. An example from the testimony of one of the complainants, a divorce client:
On the evening of June 15, 2005, Respondent met Sara [the client] in the lobby and walked her back to his personal office. On the way back to Respondent’s office Sara saw Robin Minnis [an attorney in Respondent's firm] at her desk in her office. Sara recognized Ms. Minnis because Ms. Minnis used to be a judge in Ogle County and Sara had appeared before her. Sara followed Respondent into his personal office and the door to the office was shut during their meeting which lasted between an hour and an hour and a half. No one else was present in Respondent’s personal office during their meeting.
When they entered Respondent’s personal office Respondent went behind his desk while Sara put her things down and got out some letters from Donald [her husband] that she wanted Respondent to review. The letters contained sexual connotations and showed that Donald was almost stalking Sara.
Respondent said "You look beautiful today," and Sara said, "Me? Chunker Butt?" Respondent then said, "You smell so good," and Sara sat down. Respondent asked Sara if she wanted something to drink and Sara said "No." Respondent then walked out of the office and came back with a bottle of water and shut the door.
Respondent went behind his desk again and put his hands behind his head and leaned back and said "Oh, I have had a hard day today" and Sara replied "Oh really?" He stood up and said, "Oh, I have had such a hard day" and asked Sara if he could have a hug. Sara replied "Dennis" and Respondent said, "Can I just have a hug?" and Sara replied "Okay." Sara got up and went over to where Respondent was standing and hugged him. When Sara tried to let go Respondent held onto her and Sara asked him, "Dennis, what are you doing?" and then Sara said "That’s enough."
Respondent started pushing his groin up against Sara and "humping" her, but she and Respondent both had all their clothes on. Sara stumbled and fell against the wall and Respondent put his hands on Sara’s breasts and simulated turning Sara’s breasts like a faucet. Sara said, "Okay, Dennis, that’s enough," but Respondent kept pressing himself up against Sara and said, "Oh, you don’t know what you do to me" and then Respondent put his tongue in Sara’s mouth.
Sara backed up and Respondent said, "You don’t know what you do to me." Respondent then took Sara’s hand and put it over his pants on his semi-erect penis and began rubbing her hand on his penis over his pants. Respondent said "Oh, you don’t know what you do to me" and "I could lay you right there." Then Respondent "snapped right out of it" and walked back over to his desk. Sara testified that the incident lasted for "minutes" but that it "was way too long" and it reminded her of being sexually abused as a child. Sara did not scream because she did not know whether Ms. Minnis was still in the office and she was afraid it might make Respondent angry. Sara was "freaked out" and dumbfounded.
Sara told Respondent she had to go to the bathroom and then left Respondent’s personal office and went to the bathroom down the hallway. On her way to the bathroom she passed Ms. Minnis’ office, but Sara did not look in to see if Ms. Minnis was there. Sara went into the bathroom and took a deep breath because she did not know what to do. Sara did not have the money to hire another lawyer. She had borrowed the money to hire Mr. Cargerman [her prior attorney who became a judge] from her employer and Respondent received the remainder of the money Mr. Cargerman had not used when she hired Respondent. Sara wanted to get out of Respondent’s office, but she did not leave.
Sara went back into the Respondent’s personal office after going to the bathroom. On her way back to Respondent’s office she passed Ms. Minnis’ office again, but Sara did not look in to see if she was there. Sara also did not know whether the door next to the bathroom she used was a door to the outside or a door to another office.
When she returned to his personal office Respondent was acting normal and professional. Sara asked Respondent if he had read the letters from Donald that she had left out for him and Respondent replied that he had not. Sara told Respondent that there was "something right down there" on one of the letters she wanted him to read and Respondent said, "Oh, right down there" in a "bedroom" voice. Then Respondent began acting professionally again, but was not interested in the letters. (Transcript references omitted).
After recounting the similarly graphic testimony of other complainants, the hearing board concluded:
Respondent engaged in misconduct of a sexual nature towards two clients and toward the wife of another client. Respondent’s actions were reprehensible and insulting and could not have been reasonably considered by him to be acceptable behavior under the ethical rules of our profession. We believe a one year suspension is warranted in this case.