Thursday, October 19, 2017
An Illinois Hearing Board in the main rejected charges of unauthorized practice against a New York attorney and recommends censure as the sanction for the single violation found.
The Administrator filed a four-count Complaint against Respondent, who holds a New York law license but not an Illinois law license, related to his practice of law in Illinois. The Complaint alleged Respondent engaged in misconduct including practicing law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, establishing an office or other systematic or continuous presence in Illinois, holding himself out to be admitted to practice in Illinois when he was not so admitted, making false or misleading communications about himself, and making false statements to two judges.
The Hearing Board found the Administrator proved that Respondent improperly held himself out to a judge as an attorney admitted to practice in Illinois but failed to prove the remaining charges of misconduct. The Hearing Board recommended that Respondent be censured.
Respondent was admitted to practice law in the State of New York on January 8, 2003. He testified he was "in a way" admitted to practice in New York in 1990 because of a New York rule allowing persons to practice law after completing one year of law school. He has never practiced in New York state court except for personal or family matters. (Tr. 86-88). He moved to Illinois with his family in December 2003 and has had a permanent residence here since that time. (Tr. 90).
Respondent applied for admission to the Illinois bar in 2003 and passed the Illinois bar examination in February 2005. After meeting with Respondent and reviewing his record, an Inquiry Panel of the Committee on Character and Fitness determined it could not recommend Respondent for certification. (Adm. Ex. 2).
A hearing before a panel of the Committee on Character and Fitness (Committee) then took place in 2006, after which a majority of the Committee panel determined that Respondent did not demonstrate the requisite character and fitness to be admitted to the practice of law in Illinois. The Committee's concerns included the circumstances surrounding Respondent's involvement in "considerable litigation" as a party, his poor judgment and failure to follow proper court procedures in representing Illinois clients pro hac vice, problems with his letterhead, his embellishment and exaggeration of certain facts, and his failure to convince the Committee that he appreciated their concerns and accepted responsibility for his conduct. (Tr. 82-83; Adm. Ex. 2 at 33-36). The dissenting members of the Committee panel noted that Respondent's pro hac vice procedures did not result in a complaint being filed against him, he informed his clients he is not licensed to practice in Illinois, he revised his letterhead at the Committee's direction to include the phrase "Federal Court Litigation," and he was candid before the Committee. (Adm. Ex. 2 at 36-38, 49). Respondent sought review of the Committee's decision. On September 21, 2006, the Court denied Respondent's Petition for Review. (Adm. Ex. 2 at 1).
There is no question Respondent provided legal services in Illinois matters without holding an Illinois law license. However, we do not find a violation of Rule 5.5(a) because Respondent was authorized to appear pro hac vice in all of the cases identified in the Complaint...
The single proven charge of Respondent's holding himself out as an Illinois attorney is not particularly egregious misconduct. Respondent was not as careful as he should have been in formulating his letterhead, but he did not act with any dishonest intent.