Wednesday, August 12, 2020
An attorney who practiced as an assistant states attorney while suspended administratively for non-compliance with continuing education requirements should be suspended for 30 days, according to a recommendation of the Illinois Review Board
As of April 19, Respondent still had not reported compliance to the MCLE Board, and consequently was removed from the master roll on that date. The ARDC sent him a removal notice informing him of that fact. He testified that he did not receive the notices of impending removal or removal.
Between April 19 and November 21, 2017, Respondent routinely appeared in court on behalf of the State. He estimated that he appeared as an assistant state's attorney in approximately 300 cases during that time. He therefore practiced law for a seven-month period when he was not authorized to do so.
On November 21, 2017, the McLean County State's Attorney told Respondent that he had learned that Respondent was not authorized to practice law in Illinois. On November 22, Respondent called the MCLE Board and spoke with an employee who suggested that he speak with Pusemp, who was away for the Thanksgiving holiday. On November 27, Respondent spoke with Pusemp and sent her the March 10, 2017 email and his CLE certificates. She noted that the email had been sent to an incorrect email address and that Respondent had not satisfied his MCLE requirements because he had not taken the Basic Skills Course.
That night, he completed an online Basic Skills Course and submitted information to the MCLE Board to support his request for a fee waiver. The Board approved the request and Respondent was reinstated to the master roll on November 29, 2017. That same day, the McLean County State's Attorney terminated his employment.
The hearing board had proposed a 60-day suspension
we believe a short suspension is warranted. However, we also believe that the 60-day suspension recommended by the Hearing Board is longer than necessary and is not supported by authority. Instead, we would recommend a 30-day suspension, which we believe is more commensurate with Respondent's conduct and consistent with precedent.
One of the primary reasons for the Hearing Board's recommendation of a 60-day suspension is the large number of cases that Respondent handled during the time that he was removed from the master roll. But, a high volume of cases is part and parcel of an assistant state's attorney's practice. We have already taken into account Respondent's role as an assistant state's attorney in determining that suspension rather than censure is necessary to protect the integrity of the legal system. To further increase sanction simply because of the inherent nature of Respondent's practice seems akin to punishing him for choosing a career in public service as a prosecutor, rather than in civil practice.
In addition, we note that, once Respondent's supervisor raised the issue of his unauthorized practice, Respondent got into compliance almost immediately, presumably because he realized the gravity of his situation. This demonstrates some acceptance of responsibility for his actions. It also leads us to believe that he committed his missteps, at least in part, because he was a new lawyer who did not fully understand the importance of adhering to all of the requirements of law practice in Illinois. This does not in any way excuse his misconduct, of course, which is why we recommend suspension rather than the reprimand or censure that Respondent seeks. We hope that a suspension will "impress upon Respondent the seriousness of his misconduct and the importance of fully complying with his duties as an attorney." (Hearing Bd. Report at 13.)