March 25, 2011
An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended that an attorney be suspended for 90 days based on misconduct relating to a bounced check for a vacation rental, the ensuing criminal charges and the failure to report the outcome of the criminal case to the Bar. The board found:
Beginning October 1, 2008, Respondent rented a house located at 1125 Shore Drive, New Buffalo, Michigan ("Shore Drive property"), from Lake Effect Vacation Rentals ("Lake Effect"). Lake Effect was owned by Carie L. O'Donnell ("O'Donnell"). Respondent signed a lease to rent the Shore Drive property from O'Donnell from October 1, 2008 through April 30, 2009. Respondent agreed to pay O'Donnell $1,200 per month plus the cost of utilities, snow removal and hot tub maintenance. O'Donnell agreed to allow Respondent to have a dog on the property as long as he cleaned up after the dog.
On November 3, 2008, Respondent gave O'Donnell his check number 999991, which he had drawn on JPMorgan Chase Bank account number 808321509. Respondent had made the check payable to "Lake Effect Rentals" in the amount of $1,200 and he provided it to O'Donnell in payment of his rental obligations for the Shore Drive property for October and November 2008. Respondent did not sign the check. Respondent also paid $1,200 for a security deposit which he placed on his debit card.
Upon receipt of check number 999991, O'Donnell deposited the check into her personal account at New Buffalo Savings Bank. The check was returned twice by JPMorgan Chase Bank to New Buffalo Savings Bank for nonsufficient funds. Respondent stated that the account was insufficient because a check that was deposited into the account was also insufficient.
Respondent stated that he was unaware that the account was overdrawn.
The victim sought criminal charges and the attorney entered a conditional guilty plea. He did not believe that he was obligated to report the disposition to Bar authorities.
As to sanction:
...we consider factors of mitigation and aggravation. In mitigation, Respondent offered character testimony regarding his good reputation for truth and veracity in the community. Respondent has never been disciplined and cooperated fully throughout the disciplinary process. While Respondent expressed remorse for bouncing the rent check, Respondent has not admitted wrongdoing.
In aggravation, there is an outstanding small claims judgment against Respondent of which Respondent has no intention of paying unless O'Donnell registers the judgment in Illinois. In addition, Respondent stated that he plans to countersue O'Donnell for defamation. O'Donnell testified to the financial harm caused by Respondent's misconduct as well as her negative opinion of the legal profession based on her experience with Respondent.
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