Saturday, June 8, 2013

Apropos of Nothing But Being Smart, Honest, and Sensible

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Image004As a brief respite from Mike's horror stories about lawyers, I want to acknowledge an accolade to a friend of almost forty years through thick and thin.  

For a wonderful story about a wonderful man, see this feature from the Detroit Legal News about Rasul Raheem, lawyer, father, businessman, athlete, and friend.

June 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Not With My Wife

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the imposition of reciprocal discipline of a two year suspension with fitness based on a like sanction imposed in Louisiana.

The court found that the attorney had failed to establish a basis for a departure from the discipline imposed

One claim raised was that the Louisiana hearing committee chair

...was biased against him because of an "undisclosed relationship" with [the attorney's] wife. The chairman, he says, "was making a play on Respondent's wife at the time the charges were filed," though apparently these advances were "unrequited" by his wife.

The court agreed with Bar Counsel that this claim should have been raised in the original proceeding and was waived. (Mike Frisch)

June 7, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

No Gifts On Fathers Day

The Washington State Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney for pressing a variety of frivolous claims in actions arising out of a divorce, willfully disobeying court orders and filing frivolous suits against judges.

The unusual part?

It was the divorce of his own parents.

The attorney was admitted in 2002. He (along with his brother) represented their mother against their father.

 Among the frivolous lawsuits were a series of cases alleging illegal wiretaps by the father.

The court here rejected a number of challenges.

The attorney asserted that he was denied the right to confront and cross-examine the judges who imposed sanctions against him. The court found that the claim was largely unpreserved and without merit. Likewise the court found that hearsay evidence was properly used to establish the violations.

In sum

[The attorney] assigns error to about 180 findings of fact and conclusions of law. It is [his] burden to make persuasive arguments regarding each contested factual finding, with specific citations to the record. [He] fails to do this. In addition, his constitutional and evidentiary arguments are meritless.

The hearing officer recommended disbarment. A unanimous Board adopted the recommendation. We will uphold a unanimous board decision in the absence of a clear reason for departure. [He] has given none, nor have we found any. We uphold the recommendation of disbarment. (case and record citations omitted)

The oral argument before the court is linked here.

The court order remanding an earlier disbarment recommendation is linked here. The remand order notes that the attorney practices in Oregon and was admitted in Washington State in order to undertake his mother's case. (Mike Frisch)

June 7, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Florida Adopts Professionalism Code

The Florida Supreme Court has adopted a Code for Resolving Professionalism Complaints.

The court noted that the issue of civility/professionalism has been under study for decades and that, notwithstanding substantial effort, the Professionalism Commission had concluded that "further integrated, affirmative, practical and active measures are now needed."

The court: "We agree."

The court noted that professionalism does not involve simply following rules but that bad behavior is largely a matter of choice. Responses range from "mere conversations" to written communications.

The new Code is appended to the court's order. (Mike Frisch)

June 6, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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)

June 6, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

By Swindle

The Minnesota Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for at least 30 days with reinstatement on probation for five years.

The attorney was admitted in 1997.

In 2009, she was charged with three counts of felony theft by swindle. The allegations "involved approximately $31,000 in unauthorized charges on the credit card account of her deceased father."

After a hung jury, the attorney pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of theft by swindle. A stayed jail sentence of 90 days was imposed.

The referee favored a non- suspensory sanction; the Director had sought an 18-month suspension.

The court held that the attorney's alcoholism (which did not cause the misconduct) and personal stress were properly treated as mitigating factors. (Mike Frisch) 

June 6, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Access To Justice: God Bless The Oklahoma Supreme Court

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has held that the requirement of an affidavit of merit in a professional negligence action is an unconstitutional infringement on access to the courts:

The Oklahoma Constitution does not anticipate that litigants will be  burdened with the entire bill for maintenance of the court system. The Oklahoma courts were never intended to be  self-funded, and the increasing degree to which they have become so is  disturbing. Despite our holding in Fent v. State ex. rel. Dep't of Human Services, 2010 OK 2, 236 P.3d 61, the judicial department of government is  burdened with collecting fees for thirty seven entities--only seven of which  have a relationship to the third branch of government. The Okla. Const. art. 2,  §6, guarantees the right of individuals to access the courts, and while  litigation does not have to be free and entirely at the public expense, at the  very least the provision means that justice cannot be for sale. The idea that  money cannot be used as a bar to deny justice long predates the Oklahoma  Constitution, and is one of the fundamental values of our legal system.

The Magna Carta, one of the oldest progenitors of American  legal principles, states: "We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to  any man, either justice or right." When the cost of obtaining an affidavit of merit in  professional negligence actions is added to the already high and increasingly  rising cost of using the court system to resolve disputes, the result is that a  line is crossed, and litigation costs go from being merely a hurdle to being an  unconstitutional burden on accessing the courts.

The title expresses my views. (Mike Frisch)

June 5, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Video Post Draws Proposed Suspension

An Illinois Hearing Board has recommended that a criminal defense attorney be suspended for five months for his conduct with a video received from prosecutors.

The synopsis:

The charges of misconduct arose out of  the Respondent knowingly posting on an Internet site, and showing to others, a  DVD video he received from the state's attorney while representing a criminal  defendant. The video showed the undercover drug transaction between Respondent's  client and a confidential police source. The Respondent entitled the video "Cops  and Task Force Planting Drugs," which was false. By posting the video while his  client's criminal case was pending, Respondent intended to persuade residents of  the county that the police or other government officials acted improperly in the  prosecution of his client.

The Hearing Board found that the Respondent engaged in the  misconduct charged in both counts. Specifically, he revealed information  relating to the representation of a client without the informed consent of his  client and without the disclosure being impliedly authorized in order to carry  out the representation; failed to reasonably consult with the client about the  means by which the client's objectives are to be accomplished); made  extrajudicial statements that the lawyer reasonably knows will be disseminated  by means of public communication and would pose a serious and imminent threat to  the fairness of an adjudicative proceeding; engaged in conduct prejudicial to  the administration of justice; and engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the  administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into  disrepute.

The matter will now be considered by the Review Board. (Mike Frisch)

June 5, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

From Coast to Coast

A California attorney, never admitted in South Carolina, likely never will get to be a Palmetto State attorney.

The South Carolina Supreme Court barred him from applying for admission for five years as a result of a solicitation he sent to state residents encouraging them to join in a "national" law suit and suggesting that non-participation would foreclose any relief.

He is also barred from soliciting clients in South Carolina prior to admission and ordered to pay costs.

He was suspended for similar violations in California. (Mike Frisch)

June 5, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"The TMZ Of Blogs"

There is a really nice post about this blog from Lawyers Mutual's A Byte of Prevention.

In part:

It is an accepted fact of legal journalism that the most popular sections of a law publication are the obituaries and disciplinary actions.

Death and disbarments. That’s what sells. We can’t wait to find out who’s dead and who’s in trouble.

Which is why the Legal Profession Blog holds such fascination.

Think of it as the TMZ of blawgs.

The editors are all law professors with an obsessive interest in lawyer ethics, licensing and discipline. Their site compiles cases of lawyer misconduct and malpractice from all 50 states.

I’ve never met any of these law profs but I’ll bet they’re a blast at happy hour. Imagine the stories!

...The authors of the Legal Profession Blog use a breezy, police-blotter style to report legal misdeeds and malfeasance. But I don’t think they’re making light of attorney misconduct or trying to ridicule the defendants.

They’re ethics experts, after all. What they’re doing is giving us vivid, real-life examples – sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant – of how a momentary lapse of reason can lead to permanent problems.

About that beer --give me a call! (Mike Frisch)

June 5, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Treatment, Not Disbarment, For Felony Drunk Driving

In a recent post, we noted that a New York attorney was disbarred for a felony drunk driving conviction because that sanction is required by statute. We also mentioned that most jurisdictions are amenable to significantly lesser sanctions for such misconduct.

The definite trend is to consider conduct caused by alcoholism as a treatable condition that results in a heavily-weighted mitigating factor if the attorney is progressing in recovery.

This trend has seen the rise of dues-funded bar sponsored treatment programs. These programs have quite a lot of "political" clout in terms of bar politics.

Whether the programs truly serve the public interest is a more difficult question.

The Indiana Supreme Court provides a recent example of the point.

The attorney admitted a charge of public intoxication in April 2012 and entered a diversion program. She was again arrested in May 2012 and pled guilty to resisting arrest and public intoxication.

She was charged with other offenses and convicted of felony operating while intoxicated in October 2012.

Sanction: A stayed 180 suspension with probation of at least two years monitored by the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program ("JLAP"). The attorney had completed an in-patient program and was being monitored by JLAP.

The court considered the attorney's "sustained period of rehabilitation" and four months in jail.

Chief Justice Dickson (as he has in several recent bar discipline cases) dissented and finds the "discipline is significantly inadequate in light of Respondent's felony conviction." 

The court also ordered a stayed 90 day suspension with probation in another felony OWI case, with the Chief Justice in dissent. (Mike Frisch)

June 5, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

After Over 40 Years Of Practice, First Ethics Sanction Is Permanent Disbarment

The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered the permanent disbarment of an attorney admitted in 1971.

The court concluded that the sanction was appropriate even though the attorney had no instances of prior discipline:

...because he accepted thousands of dollars from two affected clients, failed to pursue their claims for postconviction relief as they sat in prison for more than seven years, and deceived them by representing that he was working to secure the reductions of their criminal sentences.

The attorney, who did not cooperate in the disciplinary process, also was ordered to make restitution to the clients. (Mike Frisch)

June 5, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Solution To Misconduct: Divorce

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department imposed a public censure for an attorney's failure to protect entrusted funds as well as record-keeping and failure to supervise violations:

This determination arose out of a stipulation between respondent and the Office of Attorney Ethics, establishing that after five attorney trust account checks were returned for insufficient funds, an audit of respondent's trust account revealed that the overdrafts were the result of $14,400 taken by respondent's wife, undetected by respondent due to deficiencies in his recordkeeping and supervision. In mitigation, the Disciplinary Review Board considered that once respondent discovered his wife's misconduct, he demanded and obtained the return of the funds, then proceeded to replenish the account and repay clients who had been overcharged.

Respondent has submitted a letter dated April 5, 2013, in which he acknowledges and does not take issue with the proof of negligent supervision and record keeping violations, and he does not raise any of the defenses...He informs the Court that he no longer works with, and is no longer married to the person who embezzled the funds from his trust account, and that he is currently associated with a litigation firm and does not have access to his new firm's trust account.

The court noted that the attorney had not been suspended in New Jersey, where he lived, loved and practiced law. (Mike Frisch)

June 5, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

So Sad To Watch Good Love Go Bad

An attorney convicted of felony theft in Wisconsin was disbarred by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.

The facts:

The separate charges arose out of respondent's use of personal information of his former fiancée, without her consent, to forge two checks from her business account made payable to himself in the amounts of $950 and $400, and to create a computer generated check in the amount of $1,750 from the same account, which he unsuccessfully attempted to cash.

Automatic disbarment was imposed because the conduct amounted to a felony under New York law. (Mike Frisch)

June 4, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Purse And Identity Theft Draws Suspension

The web page of the Illinois ARDC has this report on a recent Illinois Supreme Court sanction:

Mr. Haws, who was licensed in 2001, was suspended for two years and until further order of the Court. He pleaded guilty in Iowa to one count of forgery, a felony, and one count of theft, a misdemeanor. While a woman was reading at a public library in Newton, Iowa, Mr. Haws stole her purse and credit cards, and then used the credit cards to make purchases from a Wal-Mart store, including a laptop computer, by forging the woman’s name on credit card receipts. He was suspended on an interim basis on September 24, 2012.

(Mike Frisch)

June 4, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Life Lessons

The Illinois Review Board has recommended the reinstatement of the former Deputy Chief of Staff of disgraced Governor George Ryan.

The petitioner was placed on interim suspension in 2002 and later consented to disbarment. He was convicted on a plea of guilty to mail fraud and testified as a cooperating witness at the Ryan trial.

The board was impressed with his efforts to turn his life around:

 Besides his own rehabilitation,  Petitioner has gone to great lengths to ensure that others, future lawyers in  particular, do not end up in a similar position.

In 2007, Petitioner was contacted by Henry Shea, a law school  professor and former AUSA. In the years since, the two men have done more than  two dozen presentations together, mostly to law students at schools across the  country, but also to others such as those attending a government ethics  conference held by the City of Austin, Texas and students interested in  government service attending Minnesota's Boys State. Through questioning by  Professor Shea and questions from his audience, Petitioner tells his story, the  consequences that resulted, and the lessons he has learned from this experience.  He sums up those lessons in three rules: When you are told concerning something  questionable that "everyone is doing it," or it is necessary to compete or that  no one will know, this is a red flag and another perspective is needed. Be  prepared to be scrutinized in everything you do and act in a way that you will  be able to explain your actions and be proud of them. If you continue to  encounter moral dilemmas in your professional life, walk away and get another  job. As a corollary he advises his audience to tell the truth, as he recognizes  that this is what has given him a second chance.

The Administrator points out that approximately half of these  presentations were done to fulfill Petitioner's probation requirements. We do  not consider this to diminish the service that Petitioner has provided. His  sentence required him to perform community service. It did not require him, to  paraphrase AUSA Collins, to educate others as to how good people could go wrong  in a personally embarrassing way. Petitioner has continued to make these  presentations long after the early termination of his probation, and intends to  continue to do them in the future. Other than two $1,000 honorariums, he and  Professor Shea have received no payment except for their expenses.

Petitioner's presentations with Professor Shea have not been  his only efforts to prevent conduct similar to what he engaged in. At the time  of his hearing, Petitioner had been employed by the American Road &  Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) for ten years and had become its  Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Managing Director of the  Contractors Division and a registered lobbyist on ARTBA?s government relations  team. In those roles, Petitioner has been responsible for raising awareness of  ethics issues within the transportation industry. ARTBA conducts a Young  Executives Development Program which brings the organization's younger "rising  stars" to Washington, D.C. to learn about ARTBA and current issues concerning  federal policy and transportation. As part of that program, Petitioner moderates  a program he began with a former Department of Transportation Inspector General  where the ethical and legal issues facing their industry and the importance of  adopting ethics and compliance policies at their companies and how to implement  them are discussed. Petitioner has also worked with a group from the Federal  Highway Administration to put together a model ethics and compliance program for  the businesses that are members of ARTBA. In 2010, at the request of the  Department of Transportation's Inspector General's Office, he arranged a panel  session of ARTBA members to present the industry's perspective on ethics and  compliance issues at a conference attended by approximately 400 people.

(Mike Frisch)

June 4, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cry, The Beloved Lawyer

The June 2013 edition of the California Bar Journal reports that an attorney with the unusual name of Eden Beloved Noe was disbarred as a result of a 2012 forgery conviction.

The Santa Monica Patch reported on drug charges against the attorney:

The owner of the Broadway Ale House——blames her troubles on a "crazy-ass" employee and a spiteful police officer.

Eden Beloved Noe was arrested in the spring on several drug-related charges—two of which were later dismissed—on a warrant obtained during an  investigation that began when police received information she was selling drugs from the [sic], authorities said.

She pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine after police pulled her over as she drove on Broadway Boulevard in April. She completed a rehabilitation program on Oct. 27 that will see the charge erased from her record.

In an email, Noe said drugs were being sold out of the bar—but not by her.

She said that she had a "crazy-ass" employee with a "severe cocaine problem.  He "wasn't ever arrested even [though] he's the one who did the drugs and sold them," she wrote.

Noe went on to write that it was a mistake to have hired the man.

The Santa Monica Police Department declined to comment.

To sell alcohol again at the Ale House, Noe will need to transfer her license, which she held for two years before it was stripped from her Dec. 6 by the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

The department suspended the license indefinitely after Noe's arrest and a subsequent charge in May that she sold alcohol to a minor decoy. She said the decoy was sent in under "extremely sneaky" circumstances by a police officer whom she described as vengeful. 

"The drug cop who did the investigation was pissed off my case was dismissed, so he sent a decoy while there was a pub crawl going on to get me for sale to minor," she said. "The decoy got in line with the pub crawl, so that was extremely sneaky. The cop was pissed, so he wanted to harass me with something else."

According to the police department, the Ale House was one of about 30 locations that were targeted that night with underage decoys, and it wasn't during a pub crawl.

"A violation is a violation," said police Sgt. Richard Lewis.

The crime of forgery is one that involves moral turpitude. (Mike Frisch)

June 3, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reema Bajaj Bar Complaint

The Illinois ADRC  bar charges are now available in the Reema Bajaj matter:

1. Between approximately 2005 and 2008, Respondent placed  listings on an online website entitled, "AdultFriendFinder.com" ("Adult Friend  Finder"). In the advertisements, she identified herself as "Nikita."

2. In approximately 2005, Harold Scott Pohl ("Pohl")  contacted Respondent through a listing that Respondent had posted on Adult  Friend Finder. After making contact with Respondent, she and Pohl corresponded  through emails. In these emails, Respondent offered to perform various sex acts  on Pohl for $200 an hour.

3. In approximately 2005, Respondent and Pohl set up a  meeting. On that day, Respondent and Pohl went to a motel in DeKalb, Illinois,  and Respondent performed a sex act on Pohl. In exchange for the sex act,  Respondent requested and Pohl paid Respondent $200 in cash.

4. Between approximately at least 2005 and August 13, 2010,  Respondent made approximately 25 appointments to meet with Pohl at his home. On  each of those occasions, Pohl paid Respondent $100 in cash in exchange for  Respondent performing sex acts with Pohl.

5. In approximately the winter of 2007, Allan Turner  ("Turner") contacted Respondent through a listing that Respondent had posted on  Adult Friend Finder. After making contact with Respondent, she and Turner  corresponded through emails. In these emails, Respondent offered to perform  various sex acts on Turner in exchange for money.

6. In 2007, shortly after the email exchanges, Respondent and  Turner set up a meeting in a store parking lot. On that day, Respondent  performed a sex act on Turner. In exchange for that sex act, Respondent  requested and Turner paid Respondent $25 in cash.

7. Between approximately at least 2007 and January, 2011, on  at least 10 to 12 occasions, Respondent made appointments to meet Turner at his  home. On each of those occasions, Turner paid Respondent either $25 or $50 in  cash, or equivalent store gift cards or DVDs, in exchange for Respondent  performing sex acts with Turner. In addition, in late 2010 or early 2011, Turner  purchased Respondent office supplies for her law office, totaling approximately  $70, in exchange for a sex act.

8. Between April 7, 2011 and May 10, 2011, Respondent and  Turner exchanged various emails. In those emails, Respondent offered to perform  various sex acts on Turner and Turner's friend in exchange for money. In the  emails, Respondent arranged to meet with Turner and his friend at Turner's home  on Thursday, May 12, 2011, for the purpose of performing sex acts in exchange  for money. On Wednesday, May 11, 2011, Respondent was questioned by the DeKalb  County Police and the emails between Respondent and Turner were viewed by the  investigating officers. Respondent did not appear for the scheduled meeting with  Turner and his friend on May 12, 2011.

9. On May 31, 2011, the Office of the DeKalb County State's  Attorney filed a three-count complaint, charging Respondent with prostitution,  in violation of 720 ILCS 5/11-14(a). People of the State of Illinois v. Reema  N. Bajaj, case no. 11CF375 (Circuit Court of DeKalb County).

10. The complaint, described in paragraph nine above, set  forth the following allegations against Respondent:

  1. Count one of the complaint charged that, on or about August 13, 2010, Respondent committed the offense of prostitution, in that she did knowingly agree with Harold S. Pohl to perform an act of sexual penetration, sexual intercourse, for money, $100 United States Currency, said act committed within 1,000 feet of real property comprising a school, said offense being a class 4 felony.

  2. Count two of the complaint charged that, on or about August 13, 2010, Respondent committed the offense of prostitution, in that she did knowingly agree with Harold S. Pohl to perform an act of sexual penetration, sexual intercourse, for money, $100 United States Currency, said offense being a class A misdemeanor.

  3. Count three of the complaint charged that, on or about May 10, 2011, Respondent committed the offense of prostitution, in that she knowingly offered to perform an act of sexual penetration with Allan Turner, either by placing her mouth on the sex organ of Alan Turner or having sexual intercourse with Allan Turner, for money, $50 United States Currency, said offense being a class A misdemeanor.

11. On June 20, 2012, the State agreed to nolle prosse counts one and three of the complaint and Respondent pled guilty to count two, a  class A misdemeanor charge of prostitution, in case no. 11CF375. The parties  stipulated to the factual basis for the charge.

12. On June 20, 2012, the Honorable Robbin Stuckert found  Respondent guilty of prostitution and sentenced Respondent to a term of two  years of court supervision. In addition, the Court ordered that Respondent  perform 50 hours of community service, pay fines and costs totaling $2,500,  obtain a psychological evaluation, comply with all treatment recommendations,  and obtain HIV and STD testing.

There are also charges of false statements in the bar application and disciplinary investigation.

Believe it or not, the bar application charges involve the failure to disclose this as "self- employment." (Mike Frisch)

June 3, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Work Stoppage

I am a huge fan of any state high court that provides live-time access to oral arguments.

Ohio is one of the jurisdictions that has this valuable service.

The web page of the Surreme Court has a summary of an argument scheduled for this Wednesday:

Disciplinary Counsel v. Vincent Ferdinand Gonzalez, Sr., Case no. 2013-0222

The Board of Commissioners on   Grievances and Discipline has recommended that the law license of  Cleveland attorney Vincent F. Gonzalez be indefinitely suspended for multiple  counts of professional misconduct including commingling his own and his wife’s  personal funds with client funds held in his office trust account, failing to  maintain required records to account for funds he received and disbursed on  behalf of clients, and abandoning a client during the last day of her divorce  trial after the court denied him permission to withdraw from the case.

With regard to the divorce case, the disciplinary board found that  after concluding that the court would not approve an award of attorney fees to  his client, Gonzalez advised the court that he was withdrawing from the case  because he would not “work for free.” After the magistrate presiding at the  trial expressly refused to allow him to withdraw, the board found that Gonzalez  refused to continue the cross-examination of his client’s husband, withdrew two  exhibits that had already been admitted into evidence, failed to call any  witnesses or to question his client when she took the witness stand, and  delivered a perfunctory 30-second closing statement.

In recommending an indefinite suspension as the appropriate sanction  for this misconduct, the board cited the aggravating factors that Gonzalez  committed multiple rule violations, failed to produce requested client files  and was otherwise uncooperative with disciplinary authorities, refused to  acknowledge the wrongfulness of his actions, and was previously disciplined in  2000 for engaging in undignified conduct degrading to a tribunal.  

Gonzalez has filed objections to the disciplinary board’s findings and  recommended sanction. He specifically disputes a finding that he  misappropriated $1,300 from a settlement he obtained for a client based on Gonzalez’s  unclear accounting for those funds, and has submitted an affidavit from the  client affirming that he received all funds he was entitled to receive from the  settlement. Gonzalez also disputes the misconduct attributed to him based on  his handling of the divorce matter, pointing out that his client did not complain  about his representation or dispute that she had received a fair outcome from  the trial, because she had discharged him prior to the final day’s proceedings  based on her inability to cover additional legal fees and her anticipation that  the court was going to base its support order on her husband’s recommendation  regardless of any alternative arguments she presented.

In response to Gonzalez’s objections, the Office  of Disciplinary Counsel has filed a brief noting that most of the rule  violations found by the board are undisputed, and arguing that the transcript  of the final day of the divorce trial supports the board’s finding that  Gonzalez effectively abandoned his client and defied the court’s directive that  he remain on the job by refusing to provide any effective representation after  he concluded that he wouldn’t be compensated to his satisfaction. In light of  Gonzalez’s multiple violations and dismissive  attitude toward the disciplinary process itself, counsel urges the court to  adopt the board’s recommended sanction of an indefinite license suspension.

These oral argument videos can be a useful resource to teach law students about the workings of bar discipline. (Mike Frisch)

June 3, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nicotine Fit

An attorney convicted of eleven misdemeanors involving his bringing contraband to a client in a county jail was disbarred by the Georgia Supreme Court.

One unusual aspect of the case is that the contraband was not illegal drugs or the implements of an escape attempt:

Apparently motivated by a misguided sense of sympathy for his client, [the attorney] smuggled tobacco or tobacco-related items to his client on several occasions, and on at least one occasion, [he] smuggled packages with unknown contents, although [he] believed that these packages contained tobacco as well. Tobacco was contraband in the jail, and [he] knew that his client could get in trouble for having contraband in his possession.

He also was dishonest with the correctional officers when he was caught.

The court concluded that the offenses involved moral turpitude.(Mike Frisch)

June 3, 2013 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)