Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Non-Venal Conversion Draws A Censure Recommendation

An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended a censure of an attorney who loaned his brother $1,500 in client funds to help pay medical bills for the brother's children.

The hearing board declined to follow the Administrator's call for a four-month suspension:

After reviewing the precedent submitted by the  parties, we find no support for the Administrator's recommendation of a  four-month suspension in this matter. The misconduct found in the  Administrator's cases is completely dissimilar. In Cole, the attorney  engaged in forgery, converted client funds for his own benefit, and then  compounded his misconduct by lying to his partner and client. In Freiman,  the attorney hid his assets in his client account and then used client funds to  pay his personal debts. Both Freiman and Mitchell took several years to make  restitution.

The cases submitted by Respondent in support of  censure are more persuasive as they involve analogous misconduct and include  similar mitigating factors. Specifically, and most importantly, there was no  delay in providing Mr. Cazares with his funds and he suffered no harm. Although  Respondent's misconduct was serious, it was an isolated act. There is also no  evidence of a dishonest motive and Respondent did not benefit from the  conversion.

Respondent has been candid, contrite, and  cooperative throughout these proceedings. As in Lenz, he openly admitted  his guilt and appeared before this Panel not with excuses but merely to contest  the type of discipline to be imposed. We believe he poses no risk to the public;  the effect of these proceedings will deter him from any future misconduct. To  impose a suspension would serve no purpose other than to punish  Respondent for an isolated lapse of judgment. In re Mulroe, 2011 IL  111378 (primary goal in imposing sanctions is not to punish attorney, but to  protect the public and maintain the integrity of the legal profession).

The loan was from unearned fees. (Mike Frisch)

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