Saturday, February 6, 2010
The Illinois Hearing Board has recommended disbarment of an attorney for conversion of trust funds, lying to his partners and violating his fiduciary obligations to the shareholder attorneys of his firm. The attorney also had failed to participate in the hearing below. The board explains the factors that influenced its sanction analysis:
Here, although Respondent participated in some of these proceedings, he failed to attend the hearing, arguably the most important part of these proceedings. His absence demonstrates a lack of respect for the authority of the ARDC and the Illinois Supreme Court, and is a significant aggravating factor.
Respondent...aggravated his misconduct by causing harm to his clients and law partners. Respondent converted more than $675,000 in client funds and misused thousands of dollars in law firm funds. He did so for his personal benefit and, in almost all instances, failed to make restitution. In fact, rather than admit his misconduct, he exacerbated it. His former law firm is entangled in complex and lengthy litigation in an effort to recoup money Respondent improperly took. At least one of his clients, Gil, is also involved in federal litigation created by Respondent’s misconduct. Additionally, Gil is millions of dollars in debt, and lost all of the assets she should have received from her mother’s trust. The harm Respondent caused to his clients and former law partners is a substantial aggravating factor...
Respondent misconduct is also aggravated by the fact that this was not an isolated incident, but a pattern of misconduct occurring over a period of several years. Respondent’s pattern of using money that did not belong to him occurred over the course of several years. He regularly spent client and law firm funds to pay his personal expenses. It is a pattern of misconduct that seems to have become Respondent’s way of doing business. He regularly treated other people’s money as if it were his own. This is an egregious aggravating factor which is exacerbated by the fact that he used this money to support his frivolous lifestyle. It is apparent from the evidence that Respondent used these funds to support his personal lifestyle. His credit card bills, which he paid with misappropriated funds, reveal a significant amount of money was used for extravagant purchases including vacations to the Caribbean, meals at expensive restaurants, and purchases of costly jewelry and lingerie. Although we are not condemning the nature of Respondent’s purchases, they would each have been perfectly proper had he paid for them with his own assets, we believe it is important to understand Respondent’s reasons for taking the money. It is apparent he took the money to support an extravagant lifestyle, and we find this to be an aggravating factor.