Thursday, March 25, 2010
An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended a 15-month suspension of an attorney who had aided the unauthorized practice a longtime friend who had been disbarred. the attorney also made false statements about his conduct in the ensuing bar discipline case. As to the aiding unauthorized practice charge, the following facts were admitted:
On January 12, 2007, the Illinois Supreme Court issued its mandate disbarring attorney Marc Erwin Levine. Thereafter, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 764(b), Levine was prohibited from engaging in the practice of law, holding himself out as an attorney authorized to practice law in the State of Illinois, or maintaining a presence in or occupying an office where the practice of law was conducted.
Between about 2001 and 2004, Respondent and Levine were partners in the practice of law and thereafter remained close personal friends. Respondent was informed of Levine’s disbarment shortly after the mandate was issued by the Court.
After January 12, 2007, the date of Levine's disbarment, Levine engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. After January 12, 2007, Respondent permitted Levine to practice law out of Respondent's law office by allowing Levine to use his office equipment and by allowing Levine to receive mail and telephone calls at Respondent’s law office. Levine used office equipment made available to him by Respondent and drafted documents using Respondent's name and other information to hold himself out as an attorney to buyers or sellers in connection with seventeen real estate transactions.
Levine's conduct violated Supreme Court Rule 764(b) and constituted the unauthorized practice of law in violation of the Court's mandate. During the time Respondent permitted Levine to receive mail at his office and to use his law office and office equipment, including his business telephone and facsimile machine, he knew Levine was disbarred, knew Levine was prohibited by Supreme Court Rule from maintaining a presence in or occupying an office where the practice of law is conducted, and knew Levine was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. (references to exhibits omitted)
As to sanction:
The Supreme Court has emphasized the serious nature of an attorney providing false information to, or failing to cooperate with, the ARDC. In In re Bell, 147 Ill. 2d 15, 39, 588 N.E.2d 1093, 1104 (1992), where the attorney gave a false written response to the Administrator and then repeated the false response in his sworn statement before the Administrator, the Court stated "the giving of false testimony demonstrates a further unfitness of an attorney to practice law."
After considering the nature of Respondent's misconduct, the purpose of the disciplinary proceedings, and the cases discussed above, we conclude a two year suspension would be longer than that imposed by the Court in comparable situations. On the other hand, something more than a short suspension is warranted by Respondent’s dishonest conduct. We believe a suspension of fifteen months will allow Respondent sufficient time to reflect upon his behavior, and will protect the public and the integrity of the legal profession. Accordingly, we recommend Respondent...be suspended from the practice of law for a period of fifteen months.