Thursday, June 6, 2013

5,000 Pending Matters

The Illinois Review Board has recommended a one-year suspension with all but 60 days stayed and probation in a matter where it found that the hearing board's interpretation of precedent was in error.

The review board found that the mishandling of a matter involved more than a failure to supervise in light of the attorney's personal knowledge:

The facts in the Vrdolyak case are substantially different than this case. In Vrdolyak the client engaged the firm without the respondent knowing it and essentially nothing more happened. In this case, the facts did not end at the engagement. The Borges firm filed a complaint and an appearance in the Circuit Court of Cook County. After [associate] Reda left, the Borges firm continued to represent Steward. An associate was assigned the case. The Borges firm caused an alias summons to be issued and United Armored Services and JP Morgan Chase Bank were served a copy of the complaint. The defendants removed the case to federal court. The notice of removal was sent to the Borges firm addressed to the Respondent. The defendants then filed motions to dismiss. Both motions were filed and a notice of motion served. One was addressed to Ernest D. Borges, Jr. and the other Ernest D. Borges, Law offices of Ernest D. Borges, P.C. When no one from the Borges firm showed up on the motion, the judge granted it. The order was without prejudice allowing the case to be reinstated by November 5, 2009. The Borges firm never did that and the dismissal became final with prejudice. Meanwhile, the Steward calls to the Borges firm were ignored and he only learned of its dismissal from a representative of the court. Having terminated the lawyer handling the Steward case, having notice after notice addressed to him about the demise of the Steward case, and knowing of the turnover of the few attorneys handling non-bankruptcy cases, Respondent clearly had reason to know that the Steward case was being mishandled.

The board described the attorney's practice:

Respondent became a member of the bar in 1985. He operates the Law Offices of Ernesto D. Borges, Jr., P.C. ("the Borges firm"). Ordinarily, he employs six or seven associates. He has no partners and describes himself as the "face" and "rainmaker" of the firm. He meets with most, if not all, the potential clients of the firm, but appears in court only once or twice a year. At the time of the alleged misconduct, he claims that his firm had over 5,000 matters pending, most of them bankruptcy matters. He assigns one associate to supervise the bankruptcy matters, and another to supervise the non-bankruptcy matters. Associates do not report the status of any matters to him unless there's a problem. The Respondent conceded he did not have a good docketing system and entrusted the associates to monitor firm cases.

There was both mitigating and aggravating factors:

At the hearing, Respondent offered evidence in mitigation. He called a number of character witnesses, including a retired judge and the pastor at his church. He has been a member of a number of bar organizations, civic organizations and fraternal organizations. He recently received a humanitarian award from his Mason's Lodge. He served in the United States Army in Vietnam and received two bronze stars, a purple heart, and a combat infantry badge. He has regularly represented bankruptcy clients pro bono.

In aggravation, the Respondent's misconduct caused harm. Steward lost his right to pursue his case. The Jennings' estate was complicated and he improperly deposited client funds into his operating account. In addition, Respondent has been previously disciplined. In 2008, he was censured as a result of his criminal conviction in 2006 for failure to file a federal income tax return for the year 2001.

 Martindale Hubbell has details about the attorney's practice:

BILLBUSTERS™ is a debt-relief service offered through The Law Offices of Ernesto D. Borges, Jr., P.C. Since 1985, the Law Offices of Ernesto D. Borges, Jr. has represented more than 25,000 clients across the greater Chicagoland area for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

The BILLBUSTERS™ team of legal professionals offers personalized service, competent legal experience and common-sense handling of bankruptcy. BILLBUSTERS™ has earned a reputation for distinguished service by offering what clients value most - quality, aggressive, responsive representation.

Ernesto D. Borges, Jr., is an experienced bankruptcy attorney with over 25 years of service helping clients overcome their debt challenges and get back on their feet. With a heart for the Chicago community, Borges has offered legal advice and debt education on local radio for many years. His firm focuses solely on bankruptcy and financial issues as this concentration allows his team to hone their mastery of this complex legal area and provide the best representation for clients. In addition to foreclosure, the firm's team of associates handles loan modifications, consumer advocacy and foreclosure defense. We also have a capable team of administrative staff to serve your needs.

BILLBUSTERS™ is dedicated to providing quality legal services with a personal touch. We have offices in Chicago's downtown area and a convenient South Side location in Chicago. Our offices are open six days a week. We offer evening appointments for the convenience of our clients.

The attorneys at BILLBUSTERS™ are members of the Cook County Bar Association, National Association Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, Consumer Credit Counseling, American Bankruptcy Institute, Illinois Bar Association, The Chicago Bar Association and the American Bar Association. We are dedicated to our profession, and we pursue continuing education throughout the year to provide you with the most up-to-date, legal services for your needs.

There are several conditions of the probation recommended hee. (Mike Frisch)

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Not surprising that a hearing panel misinterpreted precedent. In Tennessee this happens all the time because we have almost no precedent, even prior decisions that can be compared to assure that the interpretations used by panels are at least consistent and the punishments are as well. For reasons that the Board refuses to explain, hearing panel opinions are not accessible even to lawyers who pay fees to fund the operations of the disciplinary system. The Board has them on digital database but refuses to publish them or even say why it won't. Intermediate court opinions reviewing hearing panel opinions are also not accessible yet on this same database. Unless the Supreme Court itself has published an opinion interpreting a rule, there is no precedent. This allows the Board to assert its own interpretation of a rule over and over despite prior rejection of that interpretation by other panels and courts. And it empowers every hearing panel and reviewing judge to decide on its own what is and is not prohibited by each rule on an ad hoc basis. Combine that with the fact that the hearing panel members are secretly hand picked by the Board - which is also the charging party - from a group of private attorneys who are placed in the pool by some political process and you have a raging denial of due process and equal protection in every case. The law is not knowable except to the Board's disciplinary counsel that hides the opinions in its database and the Board - through its own panel - is the judge of its own case.

Your post does not tell us what the misinterpretation was in this Illinois case. That analysis would be most interesting.

Posted by: Caldwell Hancock | Jun 7, 2013 8:41:21 AM

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