Wednesday, June 7, 2017
The Illinois Review Board recommends a 60-day suspension of an attorney for misconduct in three matters.
In a criminal case
In December 2012, Respondent began representing Leon Buchanan, III (Leon) on an attempted-murder charge. Respondent was hired by Leon's father, Leon Buchanan, Jr. (Buchanan), and Leon's girlfriend, Stephanie Graham (Graham). Respondent agreed to handle Leon's case for a fee of $3,500, which was paid by Graham. According to Buchanan, he believed the $3,500 would cover the entire case and did not anticipate paying Respondent any additional fees. The parties had no written fee agreement.
After two years, Respondent asked Buchanan and Graham for an additional $500 fee. According to Buchanan, he was dissatisfied with Respondent's representation of Leon, did not think he had accomplished much, and thought he was responsible for delaying the case.
Although Buchanan was reluctant to pay Respondent any additional fee, he eventually gave him another $200, after Respondent repeatedly called him and asked for more money. Buchanan testified that during these calls, Respondent cursed at him and used the following demeaning, derogatory, threatening, and racially offensive language:
You are a piece of garbage. All black people are alike. You're slovenly, ignorant.
You better give me my money or your son's case is going to be delayed.
I'm sick of you, you piece of shit.
I don't know who's the biggest bitch. You or [family]. I'm going to lock you up.
Low class n-----s. I'm going to have you all locked up.
You call me with stupid shit. Wait until next court date.
You have until 5:00 on Thursday. $300, no $500 check... Or on Friday I'll withdraw. I already told the State's Attorney to writ your son over.
You are such a pussy. They are going to writ him over. I tried to tell your stupid ass. Other lawyers would charge $10,000 for this case. Start planning for another lawyer.
You're ugly, low class, ignorant. I'll finish with you when he gets off. You're demeaning your son.
Help your son. Pay. Stop delaying case.
These calls occurred while Leon was in jail awaiting trial, and the messages caused Buchanan to worry, feel disgraced, and think his son's case would be jeopardized if he did not pay Respondent. Buchanan later found another attorney to represent Leon at trial.
In another matter
Florine Durr has been a close family friend of Respondent for many years. According to Respondent, Durr suffers from certain mental and physical impairments and can hardly walk. For several weeks in 2015, Durr was a patient at the Lakefront Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where Aahron Adler is the administrator.
The attorney left Adler this voicemail
You know, I'm trying to be academic, intellectual, and - and - and community-minded and everything else with you. What you're supposed to do as a nursing home, you piece of Jew garbage. You put my girl out in the street and didn't give a fuck, and didn't let her come back, and know that she is mentally - are you mentally challenged, you piece of shit? Let me tell you something. There is a tort--with your stupid ass, you don't know what that is, called -- called violation of fiduciary capacity. And that's what you've done in this, with your stupid Jew ass. As a - Mother fuck you, how you fucked my girl. Okay, I'm going to sue you, a federal -- sue you, sue the fuck out of you. You should have knew better. Fiduciary capacity carries with it a responsibility of the particular concerns of the person involved. She's schizophrenic, hyper-paranoid schizophrenic, you piece of shit.
Adler contacted the ARDC about the matter, because he felt violated, insulted, and diminished.
Respondent admitted leaving the foregoing message for Adler, but denied he did so to embarrass Adler. Respondent explained that he was shocked and angry at Adler's actions and wanted an explanation. He also wanted to inform Adler he intended to sue if anything happened to Durr. Although Respondent acknowledged some of his language was inappropriate and out of line, he believes his anger was appropriate due to his concern that Adler had jeopardized Durr's well-being. He also stated that he regrets his anger.
He also had mishandled an appeal but without any insults or expletives.
The Administrator sought a six-month suspension, which the board rejected but noted
...while we agree with the Hearing Board's sanction recommendation, we also wish to emphasize that we are deeply concerned over Respondent's misconduct, particularly in the Buchanan and Durr matters. The language Respondent used was highly inappropriate and unacceptable. The resort to name-calling, profanity, racial and ethnic slurs, and other derogatory and intemperate remarks, whether spoken in anger or otherwise, has absolutely no place in the practice of law and brings disgrace to the entire legal profession. In light of his history, we strongly urge that Respondent take steps to ensure that he is more measured and restrained in his use of language in the future, particularly when he is speaking to clients and others regarding clients. We also caution Respondent that in the event additional instances of similar behavior are reported, further sanctions may be warranted.