December 31, 2010
"A Melancholy Business"
The Illinois Review Board has recommended the disbarment of an attorney charged with conversion of client funds. The board summarized the allegations and the attorney's defense:
The Respondent maintained a client trust account at Cole Taylor Bank in which he deposited funds that he received on behalf of clients and third parties. The Administrator submitted bank statements showing that on numerous occasions between September 24, 2004, and February 29, 2008, the client trust account was overdrawn or did not contain all of the funds that the Respondent was required to hold or disburse. During this time period, the Respondent withdrew from the client trust account approximately $138,000 belonging to 37 different clients and/or their creditors.
The Respondent admitted that he sometimes wrote checks to himself and his law office from his client trust account to pay his own business or personal expenses. The Respondent testified that prior to 2009 he was not aware that it was an ethical violation for the balance of his client trust account to fall below the amount he owed to clients and third parties. He believed that he was permitted to write a check from the client trust account to his law firm as long as the clients and third parties were paid. He occasionally deposited his own funds into the client trust account to "clear up the negative balance from overdrafts." The Respondent admitted that he did not pay much attention to his bank statements and attributed his lack of diligence to the difficulties in his personal life.
As to sanction:
The supreme court has stated that "[t]he disbarment of a lawyer is a melancholy business but it is in certain instances necessary for the public good." In re Broverman, 40 Ill.2d 302, 307-308, 239 N.E.2d 816 (1968). This is one of those instances. Based on the Respondent’s lengthy pattern of conversion and deception of both his clients and the Administrator, we are convinced that a recommendation of disbarment is necessary in this matter to protect the public and to maintain the integrity of the legal profession.
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