Filed November 16, 2007

In re Patterson Carl Meuth
Commission No. 06 CH 94

Synopsis of Hearing Board Report and Recommendation

NATURE OF THE CASE: 1) failing to provide competent representation to a client; 2) failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client; 3) failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter; 4) failing to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions regarding the representation; 5) failing to promptly deliver to a client or a third person funds that the client or a third person is entitled to receive; 6) failing to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client; 7) engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; 8) engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice; 9) engaging in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

RULES DISCUSSED: 1.1(a), 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.4(b), 1.15(b), 3.2, 8.4(a)(4), 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and Supreme Court Rule 770.

RECOMMENDATION: Disbarment.

DATE OF OPINION: November 16, 2007.

HEARING PANEL: William E. Hornsby, Jr. and Betty J. Phillips.

ADMINISTRATOR'S COUNSEL: Gina Abbatemarco.

BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
OF THE
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
AND
DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

PATTERSON CARL MEUTH,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 3126271.

Commission No. 06 CH 94

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE HEARING BOARD

INTRODUCTION

The hearing in this matter was held on August 16, 2007 at the Chicago offices of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, before a hearing panel consisting of William E. Hornsby, Jr., Chair, Arlette G. Porter, and Betty J. Phillips. Ms. Porter attended the hearing, but did not participate in the preparation or approval of this Report. Gina Abbatemarco represented the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Respondent Patterson Carl Meuth did not appear and was not represented by counsel.

PLEADINGS

On December 21, 2006, the Administrator filed a seven-count Complaint against Respondent alleging seven separate instances of neglect. In addition, various counts alleged that Respondent failed to communicate with his clients, failed to promptly deliver funds, failed to expedite litigation, and acted dishonestly.

Respondent filed an answer to the Complaint in which he admitted handling each of the client matters, but denied engaging in any professional misconduct.

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PRE-HEARING PROCEEDINGS

Respondent failed to file a Rule 253 report disclosing persons who have knowledge of the facts alleged in the Complaint, and failed to appear for his deposition. On motion by the Administrator, the hearing panel Chair entered an order on June 5, 2007 barring Respondent from testifying or presenting any witnesses on his behalf at the hearing.

THE EVIDENCE

The Administrator called twelve witnesses and presented thirty-seven exhibits. That evidence, along with the admitted allegations, established the following:

Count I

Admitted Allegations

On January 31, 1998, Delores Imber died leaving a will naming her daughter, Suzanne Lindow, executor of her estate. The estate contained approximately $400,000 in personal property, $150,000 in real property, and checks Lindow found at her mother's home that Imber had not cashed before her death. On February 13, 1998 Respondent filed, on Lindow's behalf, a petition for probate of will and letters testamentary. The will was admitted to probate on February 23, 1998 and Lindow was appointed independent executor.

Between February 23, 1998 and November 13, 2000, Judge Bernard E. Drew, Jr. entered four orders directing Respondent to file an annual report or a final report in the Imber probate matter. At no time did Respondent file an annual report or a final report. On November 29, 2000, Judge Drew declared the Imber estate matter dormant and closed because "no action of any type or kind has been taken in this estate for at least one (1) year," and entered an order of transfer to inactive docket and closing of estate. (Adm. Ex. 2-6).

At all relevant times the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act, 765 ILCS 1025 et seq., was in effect. That act provides that abandoned property such as uncashed checks should

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be transferred to the Department of Financial Institutions for safekeeping. The Department must hold the funds until a person claiming an interest files a claim and the claim can be evaluated to see if the claimant is entitled to the property. On July 1, 1999, the duties of administering the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property was transferred to the State Treasurer's Office.

Suzanne D. Lindow

Suzanne D. Lindow confirmed that she hired Respondent in 1998 to close her mother's estate and to handle property that had escheated to the State. Lindow paid Respondent a retainer of $3,000 and gave him her mother's uncashed checks so that he could begin the process of having the State release the unclaimed property. (Tr. 21-25; Adm. Ex. 11).

Lindow stated that in the first few years Respondent gave her status reports, but then he stopped returning her calls. On the occasions when she did reach him, he reported that he was working on the probate matter, he had a court date to close the estate, or a check was in the mail. Lindow stated she never received a check and later found out Respondent did not appear in court. Lindow did not recall receiving a copy of the November 29, 2000 court order which declared the estate dormant and closed due to inaction. (Tr. 25-28; Adm. Ex. 6).

Lindow identified two letters she received from Respondent in October 2001 and January 2002 requesting her signature on enclosed documents. She stated that she signed the documents and returned them to Respondent. (Tr. 28; Adm. Ex. 10).

In or about 2003 Lindow called one of the attorneys who worked with Respondent's law firm to inquire about Respondent's failure to return her calls. Shortly thereafter she received a call from Respondent, who assured her that he was taking care of everything. She heard nothing further from him, and subsequently hired another attorney, Karen Conti, to contact Respondent and locate the uncashed checks. After much time, Respondent released the checks to Conti.

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Lindow recalled that she paid Conti several thousand dollars, and Conti was successful in obtaining a refund of fees from Respondent. (Tr. 29-31, 34).

Karen Conti

Karen Conti, an attorney, testified that her firm was retained by Suzanne Lindow to investigate Respondent's handling of the Imber estate, and to determine the disposition of uncashed checks. On April 21, 2004, Conti sent a letter to Respondent requesting information and documents. When she did not receive a response, she sent a second letter, by certified mail, on May 5, 2004. Because Conti was uncertain as to whether Respondent received the mailings, she also sent letters to two other attorneys in his office. She subsequently spoke to one of those attorneys who informed her he was no longer in partnership with Respondent. (Tr. 144-49; Adm. Ex. 7-9, 11A).

Conti obtained the Imber estate file from the Lake County Court and determined that the uncashed checks had not been probated. She sent another letter, by certified mail, to Respondent on May 28, 2004 and received no response. After discussing the matter with Lindow, Conti filed a malpractice action against Respondent. (Tr. 149-52; Adm. Ex. 11A).

The malpractice case eventually settled for about $20,000 as well as Lindow's right to retain the uncashed checks. Conti recalled that Lindow paid Conti's firm $14,000 in connection with the malpractice action and approximately $1,400 to obtain the checks. (Tr. 153-55).

Count II

Admitted Allegations

In 1998 Respondent filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition on behalf of Wayne Alles. On January 17, 1999 Alles was granted a discharge from the bankruptcy court, but thereafter Homeside Lending Company, Alles' mortgage lender and creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings, foreclosed on Alles' home and reported his non-payments to credit reporting agencies.

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In August 2001 Respondent agreed to represent Alles on an hourly basis in litigation against Homeside. Respondent informed Alles that Alles could file a petition to hold Homeside in contempt of court for violating the bankruptcy discharge order.

Wayne Alles

Wayne Alles, a resident of Illinois until August 2004 and currently a resident of Nevada, testified that Respondent had handled his bankruptcy proceeding in 1998. In 2001, when Alles noticed information on his credit report that should have been resolved by the bankruptcy, he contacted Respondent. Alles was advised by Respondent that he had a case against the mortgage company that reported the information, and that the matter may take a year to resolve. Alles retained Respondent and paid him $1,000 to handle the matter. (Tr. 133-35).

Alles stated that when he initially contacted Respondent for information about his case, Respondent would answer the telephone or return the calls. After a number of months, however, Alles had to make daily calls and leave "very descriptive language" on Respondent's voice mail to receive a return call. In December 2003, Alles spoke to Respondent and requested an explanation for the length of the proceedings. When Respondent asked Alles if he was willing to travel to Chicago, Alles assured Respondent that he would do so. Thereafter Respondent would not return his calls. (Tr. 135-37).

Alles stated he met with Respondent again in February 2004 and urged Respondent to resolve the matter before Alles moved to Nevada. Alles described Respondent as "very different" at that meeting and unwilling to look him in the eye. Alles never heard from Respondent after the February meeting. He does not know whether his problem with his mortgage lender has been resolved because he was not sure what the resolution was supposed to be. (Tr. 137-138).

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Alles does not know of any work that Respondent performed on his behalf and never received a refund of his $1,000. (Tr. 137, 139).

Count III

Admitted Allegations

On June 28, 2000 Richard Braun filed a lawsuit against John and Bonnie Beslow, the former owners of his home in Lincolnshire, Illinois, in connection with flooding problems. On August 22, 2000 Braun, by his attorney Thomas Hood, filed a lawsuit against the Highway Commissioner of Vernon Township and the Lake County Forest Preserve District alleging improper installation of drainage pipes resulting in increased water flow to his Lincolnshire home.

On or about November 21, 2000, Respondent agreed to represent Braun in the case against the Beslows for an initial fee of $3,000 and an hourly rate of $175. Thereafter, the two cases were consolidated because both cases involved the flooding of the Lincolnshire property, and on or about January 29, 2002 Respondent agreed to represent Braun in the case involving the installation of drainage pipes.

In letters dated January 29, 2002 and February 1, 2002, attorney James L. Wright, counsel for Vernon Township Highway, forwarded to Respondent the outstanding document production request and interrogatories he had previously served upon attorney Thomas Hood. Respondent knew or should have known that Braun's response to the interrogatories was due within 28 days after service of the interrogatories. (Adm. Ex. 12, 13).

On April 9, 2002, Wright filed a motion to compel Braun's answers to Vernon Township's discovery, and on April 23, 2002 Judge Margaret J. Mullen ordered Braun to respond to all outstanding discovery requests from Vernon Township within seven days. On May 24, 2002, Wright filed a motion to compel Braun's compliance with the April 23, 2002

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order of the court. On May 24, 2002, Judge Mullen ordered Braun to respond to all outstanding discovery requests from Vernon Township within 14 days. (Adm. Ex. 14, 15, 16, 17).

Richard Braun

Richard Braun testified he retained Respondent to represent him with respect to flooding of his home and paid a retainer of $2,000. Pursuant to Respondent's request, Braun sent him the names and addresses of potential witnesses. (Tr. 61-62).

Braun stated he received interrogatories from Respondent and promptly completed and hand-delivered them to Respondent. In response to his inquiries to Respondent, he received four letters reporting on the status of the case. Braun denied receiving from Respondent a copy of a motion for summary judgment filed by the opposing party. He obtained a copy of the motion on his own from the court file and when he asked Respondent about it, Respondent told him not to worry and that he was working on a response. Braun stated that Respondent failed to inform him of a second motion for summary judgment filed by another opposing party. (Tr. 62-64).

Braun testified he was in Las Vegas when he was contacted by a friend who informed him that newspapers were reporting that Braun lost his case against Vernon Township and the Forest Preserve District. Braun then attempted to contact Respondent "virtually every hour" for three days but did not receive a response. When he returned home, he went to Respondent's home and left a note on his door. Approximately one week later, he received a letter from Respondent with news of the court decision and an explanation of how the judge had erred. (Tr. 65).

Braun stated he never talked to Respondent again. He hired another lawyer, Bob O'Donnell, to determine what had happened and to handle the matter. O'Donnell filed a motion for reconsideration and eventually the case went to mediation. On October 5, 2004, the case was dismissed pursuant to a stipulation that all claims had been settled. Braun estimated his total

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expenses for the case were approximately $248,000, including $8,000 paid to Respondent. (Tr. 65-57; Adm. Ex. 19).

With respect to the case against the previous owners of Braun's home, Braun stated that because Respondent failed to file or serve answers to interrogatories and a witness list on opposing counsel, Braun was not able to call any witnesses. Braun eventually gave up his pursuit of the case because he ran out of money. Braun hired another attorney, Bob Long, who is currently handling Braun's malpractice case against Respondent. (Tr. 69-70; Adm. 18).

James Wright

James Wright, an attorney, testified he represented Vernon Township in the lawsuit filed by Richard Braun. With respect to interrogatories and a document request he served upon Braun, Wright stated he received no response and had to file a motion to compel. Although the judge ordered Braun to respond to the requests, Wright received nothing and therefore filed a second motion to compel. The judge again ordered a response and Wright did eventually receive a limited response to the request to produce. He described it as unsatisfactory and stated he never received any answers to his interrogatories. (Adm. Ex. 12-17 (Tr. 76-83; Adm. Ex. 12-17).

According to Wright, Respondent conducted no discovery on behalf of Braun. On August 2, 2002 Wright filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the court. (Tr. 84).

Count IV

Admitted Allegations

On October 6, 1998 Grassmuck sustained injuries to his knee during the course of his employment with Service Master Quality Cleaning Services when his vehicle was hit by a vehicle owned by Tina L. Meltzer and driven by Steven J. Sampson. On October 22, 1998, Respondent agreed to represent Grassmuck on a contingency fee basis in the prosecution of a

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workers' compensation claim against Service Master and in the personal injury case against Meltzer and Sampson. On or about February 18, 1999, Respondent filed an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Illinois Worker's Compensation Commission on Grassmuck's behalf.

In May 2000, the worker's compensation case filed by Respondent was consolidated with a prior worker's compensation matter that had been filed on behalf of Grassmuck as a result of an injury to his eye in 1997.

Gene Grassmuck

Gene Grassmuck testified that after he sustained his knee injury in 1998 he retained Respondent to represent him in connection with a workers compensation matter and a personal injury claim. At the beginning of the representation Grassmuck was able to communicate with Respondent and they had a discussion concerning settlement. Shortly thereafter Respondent would not return calls or respond to letters or faxes. (Tr. 49-52).

Regarding Grassmuck's worker compensation matters, documents filed with the Industrial Commission show that on August 21, 2000, Grassmuck's cases were dismissed for want of prosecution. Thereafter, on April 5, 2002 pursuant to Respondent's motion, the cases were reinstated. On July 10, 2002 the cases were again dismissed for want of prosecution. (Adm. Ex. 22-24).

With respect to the personal injury claim against the driver and owner of the car that hit Grassmuck's vehicle, Respondent filed a complaint in the Lake County Circuit Court on October 6, 2000 to redress those injuries. On November 7, 2001, a default judgment was entered against the defendants for failure to appear or plead. On October 7, 2002, pursuant to Respondent's motion for nonsuit, the court dismissed the case without prejudice. No further action was taken regarding that claim. (Adm. Ex. 25-27).

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Grassmuck stated that when he was communicating with Respondent, Respondent told him nothing about his cases being dismissed; rather, Respondent informed him the cases were proceeding as planned and that he should not be concerned. Grassmuck stated he never authorized Respondent to dismiss the personal injury case. (Tr. 53-54).

In August 2003, as a consequence of his inability to communicate with Respondent, Grassmuck contacted another attorney to pursue his cases. That attorney informed him that "a small settlement" was possible in his workers' compensation matter, but time had run out on the personal injury claim. (Tr. 54-55).

Paul Schumacher

Paul Schumacher, an attorney, testified he represented Service Master in Grassmuck's worker's compensation claim. On October 12, 1999, December 1, 1999, and March 22, 2000 and May 20, 2002 he sent letters to Respondent asking for a demand for settlement. He did not receive a settlement demand from Respondent, nor did Respondent ever state that he could not make a settlement demand. (Tr. 40-43; Adm. Ex. 21).

Count V

Admitted Allegations

Between April 27, 2002 and May 1, 2002, Claude Brunelle was involved in several incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning during the course of his employment as a truck driver for Quality Inspection Services, Inc. On or about May 6, 2002 Respondent agreed to represent Brunelle in the prosecution of a workers' compensation claim against Quality Inspection and a civil claim against Ideal Lease, the company that leased the truck to Quality Inspection. Respondent received $250.00 from Brunelle for costs.

Between May 7, 2002 and August 14, 2002, Brunelle faxed numerous documents to Respondent, and Respondent received them shortly after they were sent. Between June 2002 and

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May 2003, Brunelle or his wife, Laurie Brunelle, contacted Respondent by telephone on numerous occasions to inquire about the status of Brunelle's cases. Respondent was aware that Brunelle was attempting to contact him.

Claude Brunelle

Claude Brunelle testified that, as a result of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning while driving his company's truck, he was hospitalized and spent several hours in a decompression chamber. In 2002 he hired Respondent to pursue a claim against his employer and the company that leased the truck. He paid Respondent $250, and sent documents to him. (Tr. 87-89: Adm. Ex. 29).

Brunelle stated he was advised by a representative of the truck owner's insurance company that Respondent was not responding to calls. Brunelle attempted to contact Respondent by telephone, letters and facsimile transmissions. Respondent answered once or twice and told Brunelle that the insurance company was playing a game. Thereafter, Brunelle did not receive any response from Respondent. (Tr. 90-91).

Laurie Brunelle

Laurie Brunelle, the wife of Claude Brunelle, testified that she and her husband hired Respondent in 2002 to pursue a claim for negligence against Claude's employer and the truck leasing company. They paid Respondent $250 and signed a contingency fee agreement. (Tr. 94, 96; Adm. Ex. 29).

Laurie stated that, after speaking to Respondent once or twice, they did not hear from him for months. She identified letters her husband received from his employer's insurance company which made reference to Respondent's lack of cooperation. When they forwarded the letters to Respondent, he informed them that the statements by the insurance company were a ploy to make them lose confidence in Respondent. (Tr. 97-98; Adm. Ex. 28A).

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On July 27, 2003, the Brunelles sent a certified letter to Respondent stating that they had not heard from him in almost one year and informing him that if he did not reply they would be forced to report him to the ARDC. Laurie stated that they received a return receipt, but no response from Respondent. (Tr. 99-100; Adm. Ex. 28).

Laurie noted that she and her husband confided in Respondent and believed he would take action on their behalf, but he did nothing and did not return their $250. They did not seek out another attorney for representation because of the passage of time. (Tr. 101).

Additional Documentary Evidence

In a letter from the secretary of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission to the Administrator, dated August 13, 2007, the secretary stated that after a thorough search of records, no claims were filed on behalf of Claude Brunelle for the timeframe from 2002 to the date of the letter. (Adm. Ex. 31).

Respondent's monthly bank records show that he deposited a check for $250 from Claude Brunelle into his client trust account on May 8, 2002. Thereafter, the balance in his account fell below $250 and on November 18, 2003 the trust account had a negative balance. (Adm. Ex. 29, 30).

Count VI

Admitted Allegations

In or about July 2003, Cindy Ramirez leased property in Lake Zurich, Illinois to Jane and Larry Barnett and received from them several checks for rent that were returned due to insufficient funds. After Ramirez evicted the Barnetts from the Lake Zurich property, Ramirez discovered that the Barnetts had caused damage to the property.

In or about August 2003, Respondent agreed to represent Ramirez in the collection of monetary damages from the Barnetts for unpaid rent and property damage. As part of their

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agreement, Respondent and Ramirez agreed that Ramirez would pay $350 towards fees and $310 towards the anticipated costs in filing a lawsuit against the Barnetts. On August 5, 2003, Respondent received $660 from Ramirez.

Between November 2003 and January 2004 Respondent was aware that Ramirez was attempting to contact him. On or about January 6, 2004 he received a certified letter from Ramirez requesting that he contact her regarding her case.

Cindy Ramirez

Cindy Ramirez testified she owns rental property and retained Respondent in August 2003 to pursue an action against former tenants for failure to pay rent and property damage. Ramirez paid Respondent $660 and provided him with contact information for the tenants. (Tr. 105-07; Adm. Ex. 33).

Ramirez stated that she attempted to call Respondent from October to December 2003, but could not reach him and had to leave messages on his answering machine. When he did not return her calls, she sent him a certified letter in January 2004. She received the return receipt but did not hear from Respondent, nor did she ever receive a refund of the money she paid to him. (Tr. 108-09; Adm. Ex. 32).

Additional Documentary Evidence

Respondent's monthly bank records show that he deposited a check for $310 from Cindy Ramirez into his client trust account on August 18, 2003. In November 2003 the balance in his account fell below $310 and by November 18, 2003 the trust account had a negative balance. (Adm. Ex. 33, 34).

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Count VII

Admitted Allegations

On November 30, 2001 Michael P. Revis ("Revis") was involved in a car collision when an automobile operated by Wendel Baumstark struck Revis' car. Revis sustained injuries to his wrist, requiring physical therapy. His car also sustained damage in the collision.

On or about December 28, 2001, Respondent agreed to represent Revis in matters related to the collision. Revis' father, Paul Revis, was present in Respondent's office when Respondent agreed to represent Revis. Revis was then 20 years old and living at home. The car involved in Revis' November 2001 accident was titled in both Michael Revis' and Paul Revis' names.

On numerous occasions between December 28, 2001 and July 2002, Revis and his father attempted to contact Respondent by mail, telephone and e-mail requesting information on the status of Revis' case. Respondent was aware that Revis and his father were attempting to contact him.

In or about July 2002 Respondent spoke to Paul Revis and told him a hearing date was scheduled for September 2002. Between December 28, 2001 and July 2003, however, Respondent had not filed a lawsuit or taken any action to pursue Revis' claims.

Michael Revis

Michael Revis testified he sustained injuries to his wrist as a result of an automobile accident in November 2001. The accident occurred when his car, which was stopped at a light, was struck by another car. Revis stated that his car was totaled. (Tr. 114-15).

When Revis retained Respondent to represent him against the other driver, he met with Respondent one time and turned over documentation to him. Thereafter, despite many attempts to contact Respondent by telephone, letters, and certified mail, Revis only received one letter thanking him for retaining Respondent. Revis stated that his father went to Respondent's office

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and stood outside "for almost an entire day," but Respondent did not appear. Revis was aware that the insurance company for the opposing party also was unable to contact Respondent. (Tr. 116-19).

Revis testified he did not hire another attorney because he put his trust in Respondent and expected him to work on the case.

Paul Revis

Paul Revis, the father of Michael Revis, testified his son was a minor at the time he was injured in an automobile accident. Paul Revis and his son retained Respondent, on a contingent fee basis, to represent them against the driver of the other automobile and the driver's insurance company. Pursuant to Respondent's request, Paul Revis forwarded documentation to Respondent. (Tr. 123-24).

Paul Revis stated that he made many attempts to contact Respondent by mail, e-mail, telephone, and visits to Respondent's office. On one occasion in July 2002, he spoke to Respondent by telephone and was told that his son's case should come to trial in September of that year. When he received a copy of an August 2003 letter from the AIG Insurance Company to Respondent, which letter complained that Respondent was not responding to requests for information, he realized Respondent was not taking any action regarding his son's claim. (Tr. 124-28; Adm. Ex. 35-37).

Paul Revis testified that, if Respondent had informed them that he could not pursue the claim, they would have obtained another attorney or gone in a different direction. He and his son never sought other counsel because they assumed Respondent would pursue their matter. He noted that, although they eventually received about $4,000 from AIG Insurance for the car, the payment was only one-third of the car's value. (Tr. 128-30).

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Prior Discipline

The Administrator reported that Respondent has not been previously disciplined.

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

In attorney disciplinary proceedings the Administrator has the burden of proving the charges of misconduct by clear and convincing evidence. In re Ingersoll, 186 Ill.2d 163, 710 N.E.2d 390, 393 (1999). Clear and convincing evidence constitutes a high level of certainty, which is greater than a preponderance of the evidence but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Williams, 143 Ill.2d 477, 577 N.E.2d 762 (1991).

In this case Respondent admitted some of the underlying allegations which gave rise to the charges of misconduct. We consider those admissions, along with the testimony of Respondent's former clients, the testimony of attorneys who dealt with him, and the exhibits admitted into evidence, in making our findings with respect to misconduct.

Count I

The evidence as to Count I established that Respondent agreed to represent Suzanne Lindow in the probate of her mother's estate. Thereafter, he failed to file any report in the estate matter and failed to process uncashed checks that were part of the estate. When Lindow inquired about the status of the estate, Respondent falsely informed her that he had appeared in court and that he was sending a check to her. After initial communications, Respondent stopped responding to Lindow's attempts to contact him or to the attempts made by her subsequent attorney.

In light of the foregoing evidence, we find that the Administrator clearly and convincingly proved that Respondent:

  1. failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

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  1. failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, in violation of Rule 1.4(a);

  2. failed to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions regarding the representation, in violation of Rule 1.4(b);

  3. failed to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client, in violation of Rule 3.2;

  4. engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4);

  5. engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5);

  6. engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

Count II

Count II involved Respondent's representation of Wayne Alles against Alles' mortgage lender in connection with the dissemination of adverse credit information. The Administrator established that Respondent failed to pursue the matter on behalf of Alles and failed to respond to Alles' telephone calls and requests for information.

We find that the Administrator proved, by clear and convincing evidence, that Respondent engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, in violation of Rule 1.4(a);

  3. failed to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions regarding the representation, in violation of Rule 1.4(b);

  4. failed to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client, in violation of Rule 3.2;

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  1. engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5);

  2. engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

Count III

The evidence with respect to Count III, relating to Respondent's representation of Richard Braun, established that Respondent failed to adequately pursue Braun's case, failed to comply with discovery requests promulgated by the opposing party, and failed to fully comply with court orders. Based on that evidence, we find the Administrator clearly and convincingly proved that Respondent engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failed to provide competent representation to a client, in violation of Rule 1.1(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  3. failed to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client, in violation of Rule 3.2;

  4. engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5);

  5. engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

Count IV

Count IV involved Respondent's representation of Gene Grassmuck in connection with work-related injuries sustained by Grassmuck. The evidence showed that Respondent failed to appear before the Illinois Industrial Commission, which failure resulted in the dismissal of Grassmuck's worker's compensation cases, and voluntarily dismissed Grassmuck's personal injury case without advising Grassmuck of that action. While Grassmuck initially was able to

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communicate with Respondent, eventually Respondent would not return calls or respond to letters or faxes. On one occasion when Grassmuck was able to make contact with Respondent, he was falsely advised that his cases were proceeding as planned and he should not be concerned.

By reason of the foregoing conduct, we find that the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent:

  1. failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, in violation of Rule 1.4(a);

  3. failed to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions regarding the representation, in violation of Rule 1.4(b);

  4. engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4);

  5. engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5);

  6. engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

Count V

With respect to Count V, the evidence established that Respondent agreed to represent Claude Brunelle, who had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning during the course of his employment, and that Brunelle paid Respondent $250 to cover the costs associated with pursuing his case. After some initial communication with Brunelle and his wife, Respondent failed to respond to their attempts to reach him, failed to pursue a claim on behalf of Brunelle, and never refunded any portion of the money received from Brunelle.

By reason of the foregoing conduct, we find the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent:

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  1. failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, in violation of Rule 1.4(a);

  3. failed to promptly deliver to a client or a third person funds that the client or a third person is entitled to receive, in violation of Rule 1.15(b);

  4. engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

Count VI

The evidence relating to Count VI showed that in August 2003 Respondent agreed to represent Cindy Ramirez and to pursue her claims for monetary damages against former tenants. Ramirez paid $350 for fees and $310 for the costs of filing an action on her behalf. Thereafter, Respondent did not respond to Ramirez' attempts to contact him, and failed to refund the money she paid him for costs.

By reason of the foregoing facts, we find that the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, in violation of Rule 1.4(a);

  3. failed to promptly deliver to a client or a third person funds that the client or a third person is entitled to receive, in violation of Rule 1.15(b);

  4. engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

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Count VII

Count VII involved Respondent's representation of Michael Revis, who suffered injuries to his wrist in a November 2001 car accident. The evidence relating to this count established that Respondent did not pursue a claim on behalf of Revis, did not respond to Michael Revis' or Paul Revis' attempts to communicate with him, and falsely advised Paul Revis that a hearing in Michael's case was scheduled for September 2002.

With respect to Count VII, we find that the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, in violation of Rule 1.4(a);

  3. failed to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions regarding the representation, in violation of Rule 1.4(b);

  4. engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4);

  5. engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

RECOMMENDATION

Having concluded that Respondent engaged in wrongdoing, we must determine the appropriate discipline warranted by the misconduct. In determining the proper sanction, we consider the purposes of the disciplinary process. The goal of these proceedings is not to punish but rather to safeguard the public, maintain the integrity of the profession,5 and protect the administration of justice from reproach. In re Timpone, 157 Ill.2d 178, 623 N.E.2d 300 (1993). Another factor for consideration is the deterrent value of attorney discipline and the need to

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impress upon others the repercussions of errors such as those committed by Respondent in the present case. In re Discipio, 163 Ill.2d 515, 645 N.E.2d 906, 912 (1994).

We also take into account those circumstances which may mitigate and/or aggravate the misconduct. In re Witt, 145 Ill.2d 380, 583 N.E.2d 526, 535 (1991). In mitigation, Respondent has not been previously disciplined. See In re Samuels, 126 N.E.2d 509, 535 N.E.2d 808, 816 (1989).

In aggravation, we consider the harm caused by Respondent's misconduct. See In re Saladino, 71 Ill. 2d 263, 375 N.E.2d 102 (1978) (discipline should be "closely linked to the harm caused or the unreasonable risk created by the [attorney's] lack of care"). Some of Respondent's clients, including Richard Braun, Gene Grassmuck, Claude Brunelle, and Michael Revis either lost the right to pursue their claim or had to accept a small recovery because of the passage of time. This type of loss, although difficult to quantify, is irreparable in nature and therefore merits serious consideration. See In re Bell, 147 Ill.2d 15, 588 N.E.2d 1003 (1992).

In addition to possible monetary harm, several clients testified to the distress and anxiety they experienced as a result of Respondent's inaction and failure to respond to their inquiries. The Supreme Court has recognized that an unexplained delay in pursuing a case inflicts "needless anxiety" and undermines a client's confidence in the lawyer's trustworthiness. In re Smith, 168 Ill.2d 269, 659 N.E.2d 896 (1995). Further, many of Respondent's clients had to retain other lawyers to either pursue their matters or pursue an action against Respondent. See In re Demuth, 126 Ill.2d 1, 533 N.E.2d 867 (1988) (client is harmed when he has to go to the "expense and inconvenience" of hiring another attorney).

The Administrator established that Respondent received funds from two clients for the purpose of covering the costs of litigation, and deposited those funds into his client trust account. Although he filed no action on behalf of those clients and should have been holding the funds on

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their behalf, the balance in his account dropped below zero. We consider Respondent's improper use of funds as another factor aggravating his misconduct. See In re Storment, 203 Ill. 2d 378, 786 N.E.2d 963 (2002) where the Court considered uncharged conduct in aggravation when it was similar to the current charges and established by evidence in the record.

We also consider, in aggravation, the fact that Respondent engaged in a pattern of misconduct. His actions reflected a course of misconduct involving seven different client matters and spanning a time period of several years. See In re Lewis, 138 Ill.2d 310, 562 N.E.2d 198 (1990); In re Smith, 168 Ill.2d 269, 659 N.E.2d 896 (1995).

Finally, we consider Respondent's failure to fully cooperate and participate in the disciplinary proceedings. Although Respondent did file an answer to the Complaint and participated in two pre-hearing conferences, he failed to participate in two other pre-hearing conferences, failed to file his Rule 253 witness list, failed to appear for his deposition, and did not appear at the hearing. The Supreme Court has stated that an attorney's failure to cooperate in his or her own disciplinary proceeding demonstrates a want of professional responsibility and is a factor to be considered in aggravation for the purpose of determining an appropriate sanction. In re Brody, 65 Ill.2d 152, 357 N.E.2d 498, 500 (1976). Hearing panels in other cases have warned that when an attorney fails to attend his hearing, he is taking the "strongest of profession ending options" and "should be viewed as refusing to concede to the inherent authority and power of the Illinois Supreme Court." In re Roytenberg, 04 CH 48, M.R. 20155 (May 20, 2005), citing In re Lee, 97 CH 107, M.R. 15436 (February 1, 1999).

We turn now to a determination on discipline. Respondent neglected seven client matters, failed to communicate with his clients, made misrepresentations to clients, and failed to refund two unearned fees. His misconduct was aggravated by the foregoing enumerated factors, to which we give considerable weight.

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With respect to an appropriate sanction, the Administrator has suggested a suspension of two years and until further order of court. While the cases cited in support of that suggestion merit our consideration, we believe the misconduct in most of those cases is less severe than that in the present case. See In re Spiezer, 00 SH 49, M.R. 18161 (September 19, 2002) (attorney suspended two years until further order of court for neglecting four client matters and failing to fully cooperate in the disciplinary proceedings); In re Porter; 98 CH 98, M.R. 15957 (September 29, 1999) (attorney suspended 18 months until further order of court for three instances of neglect, failure to return unearned fees, failure to respond to demands for information from the ARDC and failure to pay his registration fee); In re Rheinstrom, 93 CH 449, M.R. 11765 (January 23, 1996) (attorney suspended for three years until further order of court for two instances of neglect, misrepresentation to a client regarding the status of a matter, and failure to cooperate with the ARDC; attorney appeared and testified at his hearing).

One case cited by the Administrator involved misconduct which was similar in scope to the present case, but the attorney in that case acknowledged his misconduct by consenting to discipline. We have no such acknowledgement in this case. See In re Sullivan, 04 CH 27, M.R. 20142 (May 20, 2005) (attorney suspended two years and until further order of court, on consent, for neglecting six client matters, converting $7,000, and making misrepresentations to his clients; in aggravation he made false statements to the Administrator).

We have reviewed additional cases in which multiple instances of neglect resulted in disbarment. In In re Stanfel, 96 CH 618 M.R. 13943 (September 24, 1997) an attorney neglected various matters for three clients, continually failed to communicate with his clients, failed to respond to requests for information from the Commission and failed to participate in his disciplinary proceedings. Similarly, in In re Gatz, 98 CH 135, M.R. 16142 (September 19, 1999) disbarment was ordered where the attorney neglected six client matters, failed to communicate

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with his clients, gave false assurances to one client, and refused to participate in the disciplinary proceedings. As a result of the attorney's neglect, several of the clients' actions were time-barred. In In re Tuckey, 96 CH 512, M.R. 13408 (March 21, 1997) an attorney who neglected two client matters, failed to keep clients informed, failed to refund the unearned portion of fees, made a false statement to Administrator, failed to pay his registration fee and failed to participate in his disciplinary proceedings was disbarred.

Respondent's actions, in particular his repeated failure to respond to his clients and his abandonment of their cases, have caused a disservice to both the public and the legal profession. We are particularly distressed that many of his clients were left with stale claims and a negative perception of the legal profession.

Respondent's failure to appear at his own hearing demonstrates to us that he is not interested in living up to his professional obligations. In order to safeguard the public from any future abuse by Respondent, to preserve the integrity of the legal profession and to protect the administration of justice from reproach, we conclude that he should be disbarred. His lack of prior discipline, which is the only mitigating circumstance in the present case, is not enough to persuade us otherwise.

Accordingly, we recommend that Respondent Patterson Carl Meuth be disbarred.

Date Entered: November 16, 2007

William E. Hornsby, Jr., Chair, with Betty J. Phillips, concurring.