Tuesday, September 28, 2021
A tri-county hearing panel disbarment was affirmed by the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board.
One count involved a sexual relationship with a client
It was alleged that during the representation, respondent began a sexual relationship with Ms. Willacker, got her to retroactively approve a $6,667 loan to him from her $6,667 portion of the settlement proceeds from the O’Donnell Brothers resulting from the 2011 litigation, and thereafter, failed to advise Ms. Willacker he received settlement proceeds from EDR and Farmington Hills from the 2013 litigation, and instead took those funds as further “loans” without Ms. Willacker’s knowledge and/or consent.
With regard to the charges set forth in Count One, respondent’s answer noted that he researched the Rules of Professional Conduct and contacted the State Bar of Michigan’s ethics hotline “before moving forward to a sexual relationship” with Ms. Willacker and he denied that the relationship caused a conflict, or influenced the settlement of the cases set forth in the complaint. Respondent also stated that Ms. Willacker had expressly agreed to loan respondent her portion of the settlement proceeds, and vehemently denied misappropriating any of the settlement funds.
Upon careful consideration of the whole record, the Board is not persuaded that the hearing panel’s findings of misconduct, evidentiary and procedural rulings, and decision to disbar respondent were inappropriate.