Thursday, August 17, 2017

Practice Pointer: Retainer Agreement Cannot Limit Client's Right To File Bar Complaint

An Illinois Hearing Board recommends a 30-day stayed suspension for an unethical retainer provision

In May 2015, Respondent and John Quincy Adams IV agreed that Respondent would represent him in certain criminal and traffic matters in Monroe County. The cases were docketed as People v. Adams, Nos. 2015 CF 52, 2015 DT 50, and 2015 TR 1255. Adams was charged with unlawful possession of less than five grams of methamphetamine, driving under the influence, and illegal transportation of alcohol.

On May 24, 2015, Respondent and Adams entered into and signed a retainer agreement. The retainer agreement was prepared and presented to Adams by Respondent. The retainer agreement included the following provision:

Client agrees to make all matters of said representation confidential between client(s), his/her agents, assigns and principals and to refrain from reporting any phase of said representation to any external agency, including but not limited to the Missouri Bar, ARDC etc. (Adm. Ex. 1)

On March 2, 2016, Adams wrote to the Monroe County Circuit Court and indicated he wished to terminate Respondent as his attorney in the three cases set out above. The court treated Adam's letter as a motion to dismiss counsel. On March 9, 2016, Respondent filed a response to which she attached a letter that included the statement that Adams was in "constant breach of the Non-Disclosure' provision of your contract with me."

Respondent also admitted in her Answer to the Complaint that she violated Rule 8.4(h) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010) by entering into an agreement with a client limiting or purporting to limit the right of the client to file or pursue any complaint before the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. (Ans. at par. 8a).

The board noted the absence of a prior similar case. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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