Monday, December 28, 2009
The Illinois Administrator has filed a disciplinary complaint alleging that an attorney improperly communicated with a represented party. The representation involved a property dispute that resulted in a shift in the course of the Spoon River:
In Fulton County, Illinois, the Spoon River formed the boundary line between a parcel of land owned by the Chatterton Family Trust ("the Chatterton Trust") on the west side of the river and adjoining parcels of land owned by the Estate of Wilhelmina E. Morey and the Wilhelmina E. Morey Testamentary Trust (collectively "the Morey Estate") and the N. Grace Johnson Trust ("the Johnson Trust") on the east side of the river.
As of 2005, the above-described portion of the Spoon River had shifted its channel eastward.
As a result of the Spoon River shifting its course, a dispute arose as to the boundary line between the property of the Chatterton Trust and the properties of the Morey Estate and the Johnson Trust. In or about October, 2005, Respondent agreed with Marilyn G. Riley, who was the executor and the trustee for the testamentary trust of the Morey Estate, and Judith A. Montgomery, who was the trustee for the Johnson Trust, to jointly represent the Morey Estate and the Johnson Trust in attempting to resolve the dispute. At or about that time, Respondent learned that attorney Andrewe W. Johnson represented the Chatterton Trust and its trustees, including Greg Chatterton, in the matter.
On November 18, 2005, Respondent sent a letter on the subject of the boundary line issue to Greg Chatterton at his home address. In the letter, Respondent proposed changes to the legal description of the Chatterton Trust’s parcel, and she enclosed a survey and other material. Respondent also sent a copy of the letter to Johnson.
At no time did Respondent obtain the prior consent of Johnson to communicate with Greg Chatterton or any trustee of the Chatterton Family Trust on the subject of the boundary line issue.
As a matter of interpretation of the charged rule, the sending of a copy to counsel does not negate the violation. Rather, it simply provides proof that the sending lawyer was aware that the party had a lawyer. (Mike Frisch)