Thursday, January 5, 2012

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Not Judged

The Illinois Review Board has recommended a two-year suspension of an attorney with one year stayed and probation for two years in a matter involving three counts of misconduct.

One aggravating factor found by the board is particularly noteworthy:

...Respondent sat for a number of years as a member of the ARDC Hearing Board. Indeed, he had served alongside the Chair of the panel that heard his own disciplinary case. Not long before the conversions in Count I and Count III, Respondent was part of the panel that issued the Report and Recommendation in the case of In re Handy, supra, 03 SH 118 (Hearing Bd., Sept. 29, 2004), Administrator’s motion to approve and confirm allowed, M.R. 19825 (Jan. 14, 2005), which recommended discipline for conversion and other misconduct. The panel commented that it "is well-established that funds an attorney receives on behalf of a client for a specific purpose must be held by the attorney and used only for the specific purpose." Id. at 31.

In our opinion, Respondent’s years of sitting in judgment of other attorneys should have given him a heightened awareness of the need to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct where his clients’ money was concerned and to avoid dishonest behavior. Sadly, it did not. See In re Bush, 09 CH 113 (Hearing Bd., Nov. 1, 2010) ("In aggravation we also consider that during much of the time Respondent engaged in misconduct he served as assistant State’s Attorney….As a public official prosecuting crimes, Respondent should have been particularly sensitive to the impropriety of his conduct, …and the potential for damage to the reputation of his public office.").

The foregoing is of concern for two reasons. First, Respondent’s ability to turn a blind eye to his own conduct is troubling. The disconnect between his ARDC work and his own concurrent misdeeds, as well as his almost complete inability or unwillingness to accept responsibility for his actions or express remorse, suggests that the public may well need protection from Respondent. Throughout the hearing he denied any misconduct and offered excuses or explanations that the Board rejected as simply not believable. When asked by his attorney at the end of his examination if Respondent had anything to tell the panel, Respondent replied only that he "deeply regretted" his self-styled "technical conversion."

Secondly, that a Hearing Board member could engage in a pattern of serious misconduct from 2004-2007 while serving on Panels must surely impact the public’s confidence in the legal profession and also negatively impact the public’s view of the legal disciplinary system. In re Bush, Id., 09 CH 113 (Hearing Bd., Nov. 1, 2010).

There was additional aggravation in Respondent’s lack of candor and lack of remorse before the Board.

The board also rejected the claim that the Hearing Board Chair was biased against him. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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