Tuesday, August 27, 2013
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)