Wednesday, January 19, 2011
A recent Illinois Hearing Board recommendation proposes a five-month suspension in a 66 page report that tells a complex tale of an attorney's involvement with a family of clients.
The attorney, admitted in 1966, represented a husband and wife in family business matters for a period of many years. He became of family friend. He watched their son grow up and marry. He then represented the son in two divorce actions. The first resulted in reconciliation; the second did not.
The son's wife claimed (and the Administrator charged) a conflict of interest in undertaking the son's divorce matters. The hearing board rejected the charges, finding that any representation of the son's wife by the attorney was limited and did not involve her providing him with confidential information. No substantial relationship with the divorce; thus no problem.
Notably (in the hearing board's view), the son's wife did not complain to her own counsel about the conflict during the divorce litigation.
The problems lay elsewhere. The son was engaged in an affair with the children's nanny (yes, there were six kids and a nanny). The nanny was married. The son impregnated her. The attorney undertook to represent the nanny in her divorce/support action. A protection order was entered in the case. While he sent an office mate to handle the initial hearing, he clearly represented the nanny.
The pleadings in the nanny's case alleged that the child had been fathered by the nanny's husband. The attorney believed the allegation was accurate. Within a couple of months, he learned the truth.
When a paternity test fingered the son, the attorney failed to correct the false allegations regarding the child's paternity. The hearing board foud that the attorney's disclosure of the truth to the lawyer for the nanny's husband and return of support payments did not constitute a "reasonable remedial measure" to correct the false statement to the tribunal. The various judges who handled the matters certainly felt so and one complained to the ARDC.
The final chapter involved the attorney's representation of the son in an action to establish parentage of the child. The nanny was pro se.
The various proceedings in which the attorney was involved on behalf of the son were dubbed a "three ring circus."
The attorney had a record of prior discipline. He was suspended in 1991 for failure to submit income tax returns and guaranteeing payment to (and failing to pay) a complaining witness
The hearing board does not shower the attorney with compliments with respect to the potential conflicts, saying that he should not have walked the ethical "tightrope" of the representations given his prior brush with discipline.
If you don't believe me, read it yourself. (Mike Frisch)