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Secretary Turns In Lawyer – ARDC Files Complaint

BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD.

This is a complaint filed by the ARDC, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The ARDC’s complaint alleges that an attorney, Tina Marie Jacobs, filed a foreclosure case against a homeowner. The ARDC alleges that the lawyer failed to provide the homeowner with a grace period notice required by the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. The statute sets forth the exact text the grace period notice must contain:

The notice required in this subsection (c) shall state the date on which the notice was mailed, shall be headed in bold 14-point type “GRACE PERIOD NOTICE”, and shall state the following in 14-point type: “YOUR LOAN IS MORE THAN 30 DAYS PAST DUE. YOU MAY BE EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL DIFFICULTY. IT MAY BE IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO SEEK APPROVED HOUSING COUNSELING. YOU HAVE A GRACE PERIOD OF 30 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THIS NOTICE TO OBTAIN APPROVED HOUSING COUNSELING. DURING THE GRACE PERIOD, THE LAW PROHIBITS US FROM TAKING ANY LEGAL ACTION AGAINST YOU. YOU MAY BE ENTITLED TO AN ADDITIONAL 30 DAY GRACE PERIOD IF YOU OBTAIN HOUSING COUNSELING FROM AN APPROVED HOUSING COUNSELING AGENCY. A LIST OF APPROVED COUNSELING AGENCIES MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL REGULATION.”

After the case was filed, the defendant alleged its first affirmative defense that the required grace period notice was not provided.

Instead of dismissing the foreclosure case, the attorney instructed her secretary to prepare a back-dated grace period notice. The ARDC alleges as follows: “10. On or about August 28, 2012, Respondent caused a document to be created that purported to be a letter to the McDowells dated January 18, 2012 and containing the “grace period notice.” Respondent wrote the letter in longhand, and gave it to her then-secretary, Valerie Schubert, to type and print. Respondent revised the document at least twice, until Schubert created a final version that Respondent approved.”

Shortly thereafter the lawyer filed a motion to strike the affirmative defense. She attached a copy of the purported grace period notice to the motion to strike. The court set a briefing schedule on the motion.

In December 2012, Ms. Schubert reported the matter to the ARDC, which investigated and filed a complaint.

Comment: Obviously, this is a complaint that has not been subjected to the test of proof.  If true, the allegations are very serious as a false document was created and submitted to the court. The ARDC and the Illinois Supreme Court tend to meet out harsh punishment for those lawyers who (a) prepare false filings with the court; or (b) prepare false documents to send to clients to cover up lawyer misdeeds.