Friday, December 3, 2021

Worth Twice As Much As Gloria Allred?

A recent complaint filed by the Illinois Administrator alleges conduct that one would be hard pressed to invent as an ethics exam question.

The attorney allegedly agreed to represent a "romantic partner" [JM] in a workplace tort matter, despite the fact that he had  "never handled a similar claim in his three-year career."

He brought in a heavy hitter

On October 23, 2018, Respondent, JM, and the California-based law firm Allred, Maroko & Goldberg (“AMG”) entered into a new representation agreement. Gloria Allred, a nationally-known attorney who had handled many cases involving claims of workplace or sexual harassment, is a name partner in AMG. In the new agreement, Respondent, AMG, and JM agreed that both Respondent and AMG would represent JM in the workplace tort matter, and that Respondent and AMG would each receive 20% of any recovery obtained on JM’s behalf, plus any costs and expenses that AMG and Respondent incurred.

On the same day, without notice to or the knowledge of AMG, Respondent drafted a document titled “Confidential Addendum to Attorney Fee Splitting Agreement and Fund Splitting Agreement.” The document provided that Respondent would receive an additional 20% of any recovery obtained on behalf of JM, above and beyond the fees contained in the fee  agreement described in paragraph three, above. Respondent provided the document to JM for her signature. JM executed the document.

Allegedly

JM did not consult with an independent counsel prior to signing the “Confidential Addendum to Attorney Fee Splitting Agreement and Fund Splitting Agreement,” and the terms of the agreement were neither fair to JM nor reasonable, in that it obligated her to pay Respondent, who had no experience in cases similar to JM’s, twice as much as she had agreed to pay a nationally-known attorney with extensive experience in that practice area. 

A $3.5 million settlement was reached in mediation

On March 13, 2019, Respondent prepared a document called “Final Settlement Statement.” The settlement statement was addressed only to JM, and only had signature spaces for JM and Respondent. The settlement statement stated that of the $3,500,000 settlement described in paragraph seven, above, Respondent would receive $1,400,000 as payment for his legal fees, that AMG would receive $700,000 as payment for its legal fees, that AMG would receive an additional $16,082.82 for its incurred costs, and that JM would receive the remaining $1,383,917.18. JM executed the “Final Settlement Statement.”

After receiving $2.250,000 of the settlement, it is alleged

On March 26, 2019, Respondent wired $716,082.82 from Account 0663 to AMG in satisfaction of AMG’s fees and costs, and $883,917.18 from Account 0663 to JM.

On the same day, Respondent transferred $1,400,000 from Account 0663 to his personal checking account at Chase Bank, with an account number ending in 1793 (“Account 1793”). Respondent later used those funds for his own personal and business purposes.

A second payment

On February 19, 2020, Respondent received $501,201.80 in his client trust account ending in the four digits 0663, constituting the second payment of the settlement agreement  described in paragraph seven, above, plus accrued interest.

It is alleged that he transferred the funds to his own accounts and

As of February 19, 2020, Respondent had used $500,975.46 of JM’s funds for his own personal or business purposes, without notice to, or authority from, JM. Respondent’s use of those funds constitutes conversion.

Then it is alleged that he secured JM's agreement to a release and settlement with him while still her counsel

In the agreement, Respondent was referred to as “Complainant,” and JM was referred to as “Defendant.” The “Recitals” section of the agreement stated that on December 18, 2018, Respondent became aware of a potential cause of action against JM for sexual battery, based on JM’s alleged exposure to Respondent of a sexually transmitted disease. The “Recitals” section further stated the parties desired to settle Respondent’s potential cause of action.

The agreement further stated, “Defendant shall pay Complainant $501,084.04 on receipt of this agreement signed by Complainant.” The agreement further stated that JM “directs Complainant to transfer $501,084.04 from Defendant’s [sic] trust account to an account of Complainant’s choice at a time of Complainant’s choice.” JM executed the agreement on March 4, 2020.

And an affidavit

On or about March 5, 2020, Respondent created an affidavit for JM to executed [sic]. The affidavit stated that JM became infected with a sexually transmitted disease before JM met Respondent, and that JM knowingly exposed Respondent to the sexually transmitted disease by having unprotected sex with Respondent, and that JM had lied to Respondent by telling him that she did not have a sexually transmitted disease. JM executed the affidavit on March 5, 2020.

She had buyer's remorse and sought settlement proceeds

In the days after JM executed the settlement agreement with Respondent, JM told Respondent that she regretted executing the agreement, and asked Respondent to provide her with the second payment from the workplace settlement funds. Respondent refused. Respondent told JM that she had already executed the agreement, and that if she contested the payment, he would file suit in court, and make public that JM had a sexually transmitted disease.

Two months later

On May 16, 2020, JM was at Respondent’s residence with Respondent. JM again asked Respondent to return to her the funds described in paragraph 32, above. Respondent punched JM in the face, and JM fell to the floor. While JM was on the floor, Respondent stood over JM and continued to punch JM about her face and body. Then, Respondent began to choke JM with his arms. Then, Respondent grabbed an electrical cord and began to choke JM until she lost consciousness.

JM manage [sic] to leave Respondent’s residence and go to the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she was treated for her injuries. JM reported the incident to the police, and Respondent was arrested.

On August 25, 2020, a grand jury in Cook County indicted Respondent in case number 20CR07781 with three charges stemming from Respondent’s actions on May 16, 2020, including Respondent’s attempted murder of JM and Respondent’s aggravated domestic battery of JM.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2021/12/a-recent-complaint-filed-by-the-illinois-administrator-the-attorney-allegedly-agreed-to-represent-a-romantic-partner-in-a-wo.html

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