Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The Illinois Review Board has proposed a suspension of 30 days of an attorney who failed to disclose her financial interest in real estate settlements:
The relevant facts are not in dispute. [the attorney] was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 2001. In 2005, she and attorney Dortricia Penn opened the Law Offices of Penn & Scott. Respondent concentrated her practice on civil matters, including residential real estate transactions. Both Respondent and Penn were title agents for Ticor Title.
Prior to April 2008, when counsel for the Administrator inquired about her compliance with the Title Insurance Act, 215 ILCS 155/18, Respondent was not aware that, when acting as both attorney and title agent, the Title Insurance Act required her to disclose to her clients in writing that she had a financial interest in their real estate transactions and to obtain her clients' written consent. Respondent admitted that she did not provide written disclosures or obtain written consent in six transactions when she acted as attorney and title agent. Her clients in those transactions were Karen Van, Farrah Bledsoe-Whitlow, Cousandra Armstrong, Percy Wicks, Nathaniel Maxwell, and Talisa Jackson. Respondent received a total of $6,981 in title fees from the six transactions.
As to sanction:
We have considered in mitigation that Respondent has no prior discipline and that her misconduct did not result from an improper motive but from a lack of awareness of her professional responsibilities. That said, we consider in aggravation Respondent's failure to recognize that her conduct was improper. The Hearing Board found that Respondent did not seem to understand the rules pertaining to conflicts of interest or the reasons for those rules. She maintained that there was nothing wrong with her conduct. Respondent's failure to recognize obvious conflicts of interest is cause for concern and convinces us that a suspension is necessary to protect the public and ensure that Respondent is aware of and understands her ethical responsibilities to her clients.