September 3, 2011
The Illinois Review Board has recommended that a public censure be imposed for an attorney's ethical violation in drafting a series of trusts and wills in which he was one of the beneficiaries. The attorney met the deceased in 1959 when she and her husband were his upstairs neighbors.
The board found it significant that there was a close, longstanding relationship between the attorney and the deceased:
We find it significant that when the Margolises returned to the Chicago area in 1988, and when Sylvia returned in 1992, Respondent again became a primary figure in their lives. He visited Herman many times before his death. He visited Sylvia monthly between 1992 and 2006, and more frequently after that. Pilar testified that Respondent was the only person to visit during the nineteen months that she took care of Sylvia, other than Sylvia’s niece, who came twice and a cousin who visited once. It was Respondent whom she called when Sylvia was hurt or sick, or had a doctor’s appointment. It was Respondent who received the condolence cards from those who had contact with Sylvia near the end of her life, who gave Sylvia’s eulogy and who handled her personal effects.
The relationship mitigated the proposed sanction:
It is clear from the evidence that a close, nurturing, familial relationship existed between Sylvia and Respondent. Sylvia considered Respondent to be her family. Given the unique circumstances of this case, namely the long-term, close relationship between the parties, the care that Respondent provided to Sylvia at the end of her life and the other evidence in mitigation, we conclude that censure is appropriate. Therefore, after consideration of all the circumstances of this case, we affirm the Hearing Board’s factual findings and findings of misconduct and recommend that the Respondent...be censured.
The Administrator had declined to pursue undue influence charges. (Mike Frisch)
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