Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What, Me Disbarred?

An Illinois hearing board has recommended the denial of a petition for reinstatement of an attorney who had consented to discipline in 1987. The attorney contested that the consent was to disbarment:

One of the most obvious indications that Petitioner does not recognize the seriousness of his actions is his refusal to even acknowledge that he was disbarred. As already noted, throughout most of these reinstatement proceedings, Petitioner has been insistent that he was not disbarred and has attempted to recast the circumstances under which his name was stricken from the roll of attorneys as the result from some voluntary action on his part. In his petition for reinstatement, he repeatedly characterized his prior discipline as a "transfer to inactive status" by agreement with the Administrator, rather than disbarment on consent. He continued to maintain this position throughout the course of these proceedings and during most of the hearing and even attacked the ARDC and its counsel for falsely stating that he had been disbarred. It was not until near the end of the hearing, when confronted with the fact that language in Rule 762 upon which he based this argument was not in existence in 1987, that he finally acknowledged that he had in fact been disbarred. Petitioner's ongoing denial of the serious nature of the discipline that was imposed as well as his attempt to reinvent the circumstances surrounding the loss of his license are clear indications that he has not yet faced up to his prior actions or accepted responsibility for his wrongdoing.

Throughout his remaining testimony at the hearing Petitioner also repeatedly failed to demonstrate that he understood or appreciated the nature of his actions. Petitioner specifically denied that he had engaged in almost all of the misconduct that was under investigation when he agreed to his disbarment on consent. He suggested that he agreed to take the drastic step of having his name stricken not because he had engaged in any serious wrongdoing, but simply because he was "out of gas" at the time due to various personal matters. The only real wrongdoing that he acknowledged was that he had "overreached" by taking on too much pro bono work on behalf of Christian organizations and may have neglected other clients as a result.

As already discussed, however, it is clear from the evidence presented at the hearing that the primary misconduct engaged in by Petitioner, which stemmed from his promotion of his 9051M Trust real estate investment scheme, involved far more than merely neglect or failure to communicate caused by overwork. Moreover, the overreaching he engaged in had nothing to do with him taking on too much pro bono work, but involved taking advantage of the position of trust he held in relationship to his clients by convincing them to invest in his real estate trust program. While Petitioner expressed regret that the real estate market had declined and his clients had lost money, he acknowledged no real wrongdoing in connection with the way he operated this scheme. Nor did he demonstrate any understanding or appreciation for the numerous ethical and other concerns arising from this arrangement.

The hearing board thus concludes:

Petitioner engaged in very serious misconduct that was extensive and ongoing over the course of a number of years and resulted significant financial harm to numerous clients. He was mature and experienced at the time and there is no evidence of any mitigating factors. In these proceedings, he has failed to demonstrate that he recognizes, appreciates or even understands the nature of his prior misconduct and has not taken any real steps during the lengthy period since his disbarment to provide restitution to the many individuals who were harmed by his actions. Although he has been engaged in some charitable activity since his disbarment, his conduct overall has been far from exemplary and has included many troubling aspects. Moreover, he has not been completely candid during these proceedings regarding the nature of his prior discipline and has failed to sufficiently establish his present good character and current knowledge of the law.

Hat tip to Mad Magazine for the title to the post. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2010/03/an-illinois-hearing-board-has-recommended-the-denial-of-a-petition-for-reinstatement-of-an-attorney-who-had-consented-to-disc.html

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