Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mother's Day

An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended disbarment of an attorney for misconduct in the representation of her own mother:

In or prior to 2006, Lenore [Respondent's mother]allowed Respondent to reside in a home Lenore owned at 1530 Tower Road in Winnetka under the terms that Respondent would pay rent and other expenses normally paid by tenants and Lenore would pay expenses normally paid by landlords. At the time Respondent resided at the Winnetka house, Lenore was residing in La Jolla, California.

In or about 2006, Respondent told Lenore she was suffering from cancer and needed a place to live near her cancer treatment center in Evanston. Respondent's statements to Lenore were false and Respondent knew they were false because she never had cancer. Respondent's statements were made for the purpose of inducing Lenore to purchase a house in Evanston to be used for Respondent's benefit...

In or about 2006, in reliance upon Respondent's statements, Lenore decided to sell the Winnetka house and use some of the proceeds from the sale to purchase a smaller house in Evanston where she would allow Respondent to reside as a tenant under terms similar to that for the Winnetka house. Respondent acted as Lenore's attorney for the sale of the Winnetka house and the purchase of the Evanston house.

By reason of the trust and confidence that Lenore placed in Respondent pursuant to the attorney-client relationship, Respondent stood in a position of a fiduciary to Lenore. As such, Respondent owed Lenore the fiduciary duties attendant to the attorney-client relationship, including the duty to perform the requested services with the highest degree of honesty, fidelity, and good faith, a duty of undivided loyalty, a duty to avoid placing herself in a position where her interests would conflict with the interests of her client, and a duty of care, including but not limited to a duty to ascertain if the actions she was taking on behalf of Lenore accurately reflected Lenore's desires and protected Lenore's legal interests.

The transaction thereafter was marked by concealment and self-dealing. As to sanction:

Although Respondent was not charged with conversion in this case, her unauthorized and intentional actions did result in an eventual reduction of the value of her mother’s estate. We therefore derive additional guidance from cases involving attorneys who converted funds from estates...

Respondent’s actions were reprehensible. While purporting to represent her mother’s interests, she was actually scheming to benefit herself. She betrayed close family members who trusted her, and caused them to suffer financial harm. When contacted by the Administrator regarding her actions, she failed to explain her conduct or respond to requests for information.

The attorney defaulted on the bar charges.

The mother was an artist who passed away in 2009. From the Chicago Tribune obituary:

[The mother's] art career blossomed in the 1970's. She served as the Artist-In-Residence in Jerusalem, Israel in 1973 and 1974, and as a Juror with the Chicago Art Institute in the 1980's. She also taught for several years at the North Shore Art League in Winnetka, IL, was an active member of numerous artists' organizations, including the Arts Club of Chicago, the Chicago Society of Artists, the Evanston Art Center, the Printer's Atelier West of San Diego, and the Chicago Artist's Coalition, and was elected to membership in the Cliff Dwellers' Club of Chicago.

(Mike Frisch)


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