Articles Tagged with Legal Ethics

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There appears to be near 100% enforcement for lawyers who wrongfully notarize or witness documents that where the lawyer did not personally witness the signature. This case illustrates that trend. It also shows that the ARDC Hearing Board can be merciful where the error did not cause harm to anyone.

Count I – Failing to Consult with the client in violation of Rule 1.4(a)(2).

The ARDC Hearing Board voted to censure an attorney for a series of deceptive actions regarding estate planning documents. The lawyer originally met with a William Theobald in December 2013 concerning his estate plan. The lawyer agreed to prepare the estate plan, but, apparently little or nothing was done for some time.

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Sometimes, for reasons that are obscure, the ARDC takes a set of facts that appear to prove negligence and makes a disciplinary complaint out of them. In the case of Barbara Ann Susman, the ARDC charged an immigration lawyer with: (a) failing to act with reasonable diligence, failing to promptly inform the client of an adverse decision, failing to keep the client reasonably informed, making a false statement to the ARDC, conduct involving dishonesty, failing to respond to the ARDC’s demands for information and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The facts demonstrated that Susman was hired by David Yonan to file an appeal in an immigration matter. On September 1, 2010, the Immigration Service denied his petition for permanent residence based on his status as an alien of extraordinary ability. Yonan had until October 4, 2010, to appeal. Yonan met with Susman but did not promptly pay the retainer she requested. On Saturday, October 2, 2010, Yonan made a deposit of the amount of the filing fee. Susman then took the appeal to Federal Express and believed that Federal Express would deliver the appellate papers by Monday, October 4. Some months later, the USCIS rejected the appeal on the ground that the notice of appeal was not received until October 5, 2010. Yonan declined to appeal that decision. Later, he retained another lawyer and moved to reopen his appeal.

The Panel ruled that the ARDC failed to prove a lack of diligence because Yonan did not pay the filing fee until the last minute. The Panel noted that the evidence showed that Susman acted with diligence:

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The ARDC has filed a complaint against Rhonda Crawford who was employed as a law clerk by the Circuit Court of Cook County. Ms. Crawford is currently running for judge as well. The ARDC alleges that Ms. Crawford wore a judge’s robe and presided over three matters. The allegations are these:

4. On August 11, 2016, Judge Valarie Turner (“Judge Turner”) was assigned to Courtroom 098 in Markham (“Courtroom 098”) for court calls scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 1:00 p.m. On August 11, each of the three court calls involved traffic tickets that had been issued in the Village of Dolton. The Village of Dolton prosecutor working in Courtroom 098 that day was Luciano Panici, Jr. (“Panici, Jr.”).

5. On August 11, 2016, at approximately 9:00 a.m., Respondent was seated in the witness box to the left of the judge’s bench in Courtroom 098. Shortly thereafter, Judge Turner entered Courtroom 098 wearing her judicial robe, took the bench, and began the 9:00 a.m. call. Respondent remained seated in the witness box throughout the 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. calls, between which there was no recess.

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John J. Otrompke intends to seek admission to the practice of law in the State of Indiana. He filed suit against the Bradley Skolnick and the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners apparently accusing them of violating his first amendment rights. Otrompke was concerned that, if he were to apply for admission in Indiana, he would be rejected because of his strong advocacy for certain political beliefs. The Seventh Circuit explains:

Section 3 of Rule 12 of the Indiana Rules for the Admission to the Bar and the Discipline of Attorneys states: “No person who advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or this state by force, violence or other unconstitutional or illegal means, shall be certified to the Supreme Court of Indiana for admission to the bar of the court and a license to the practice of law.” The plaintiff intends to engage in “revolutionary advocacy,” as by distributing theCharter of Carnaro (Gabrielle d’Annunzio’s constitution, combining proto-fascist, anarchist, and democratic ideas, for his short-lived rule over Fiume in 1920), and Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, and he is concerned, he says, that his actions will be deemed to violate Rule 12(3).

Unfortunately, because Mr. Otrompke has never actually applied to be admitted to the practice of law in the State of Indiana, his lawsuit was dismissed as premature. In other words, because Mr. Otrompke has not sought admission, he cannot claim that admission was denied him because of his political beliefs.

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Filed April 27.

The ARDC charged a lawyer handling a divorce, Justin Tedrowe, with wrongfully altering a form, obstructing justice and defrauding an opponent. Tedrowe sucessfully defended himself at trial.

An accusation that a lawyer altered a document could be very difficult to defend. The ARDC would show that the document was altered (after it was signed) and then the lawyer would have a difficult time defending the claim.

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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.”

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Filed November 30.

The ARDC Hearing Board has recommended a six month suspension for a lawyer who falsely notarized a quit claim deed and then, when he received an inquiry from the ARDC, falsely informed the ARDC that the signatures of his clients were genuine.  The panel explains:

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IN RE GLEASON, Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit 2012 – Google Scholar.

A bankruptcy lawyer was unhappy with a ruling.  What he did next netted him a 60 day suspension from practicing before the bankruptcy court.

The lawyer wrote a letter to the judge and included a bottle of wine with the letter.  The result was a legal ethics mess and a suspension.

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Filed October 5.

This is a disciplinary case against Herbert Arthur Bates, an attorney in Illinois.  Bates was retained by a convicted criminal to handle his appeal.  Bates was paid $10,000.  Unfortunately, he missed numerous deadlines and the appeal was dismissed.  He also failed to return the transcripts to the inmate so the inmate could do the appeal by himself.  The ARDC Hearing Board recommended a suspension of eighteen months.  Bates ultimately refunded the money he was paid to handle the appeal.

The Panel explains:

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ARDC claims conflict of interest.

Filed August 24.

This case illustrates one of the problems with the ARDC process.  The underlying conduct took place in 2004.  The ARDC filed a complaint against the respondent in December 2008!  She answered in February 2009, but the case did not come to hearing until January 2012.  The decision was issued on August 24, 2012.