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

In the Matter of:

 JAMES GORDON BANKS,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No.  6271110.

 

Commission No. 07 CH 78

FILED -  December 19, 2007

FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Cass R. Buscher, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent, James Gordon Banks, who was licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois on April 4, 2000, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute:

COUNT I
(Aiding in the unauthorized practice of law)

1. On January 23, 1996, the Illinois Supreme Court granted Paul Glover's ("Glover") motion to voluntarily strike his name from the roll of attorneys in Illinois in connection with his pending disciplinary case entitled In re Glover, 95 CH 702, based on his multi-count conviction for accepting over $400,000 in kickbacks while working as General Counsel for the Chicago Truck Drivers Union.

2. At no time pled in this complaint has Glover been reinstated to practice law in the State of Illinois by the Supreme Court of Illinois. Specifically, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 764(b) prohibited Glover from maintaining a presence where the practice of law occurred and remove all indicia as lawyer, counselor at law, legal assistant, law clerk, or similar title.

3. From 2003 to 2005, Respondent was a partner in the firm "Romero & Banks." Respondent's practice primarily consisted of representation of plaintiffs in personal injury matters and his fees in those matters were paid on a contingent-fee basis.

4. In October or November 2003, Respondent met with Glover. Glover advised Respondent that he was a disbarred attorney and that his disbarment resulted from his felony convictions in the Northern District of Illinois.

5. At that meeting in 2003 or shortly thereafter, Respondent hired Glover as a paralegal in his law office. Respondent and Glover agreed that Glover would be paid on an hourly basis for the work he performed, but would only receive payment once a case had settled.

6. From 2003 through 2005, at Respondent's direction, Glover, among other duties, prepared documents and pleadings, generated letters, researched legal issues, and provided office support. Glover also assisted Respondent with discovery, discovery conferences, and made contact with Respondent's clients and Respondent's opposing counsel on legal matters.

7. Respondent paid Glover at somewhere between $10,000 to $15,000 for the services provided by Glover.

8. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. assisting a person who is not a member of the bar in the performance of activity that constitutes the unauthorized practice of law, in violation of Rule 5.5(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. giving assistance to another when the lawyer knows that conduct will violate these Rules, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(2) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  3. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  4. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and

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

COUNT II
(Attempting to Share Legal Fees with a Nonlawyer)

1. In 1999, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT") started Project Rise, which was created to investigate local IBT branches that had exhibited connections with organized crime in the past to determine to what extent those connections still existed.

2. On or about July 3, 2000, the IBT hired Richard Houston ("Houston"), a retired agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), as an investigator for Project Rise in the Chicago area. Houston was subsequently promoted to the lead investigator for Project Rise in the Chicago area. During that time another former FBI agent, Ernest Luera ("Luera"), was hired to work under the direction of Houston. In early 2003, Project Rise concluded its investigation in the Chicago area and issued a document called "The Rise Report".

3. After the issuance of The Rise Report, Houston and Luera continued to work for the IBT conducting more detailed investigations into specific union locals. During Houston and Luera's employment with the IBT, they received information indicating that General Chauffeurs Salesdrivers and Helpers Local Union No. 330 ("Local 330"), a local of the IBT, and one of its members, Dominic Romanazzi ("Romanazzi"), may have had ties to organized crime. As part of their employment with the IBT, Houston and Luera were required to determine the validity of this allegation.

4. At some time prior to December 2004, James D. Shales ("Shales") approached Respondent about representing him and two others in a lawsuit for retaliatory discharge and civil RICO violations against Local 330, its current president, Romanazzi, the IBT, and others.

5. Respondent agreed to represent Shales and the two others in that lawsuit. Respondent further agreed that his fee would be contingent upon recovery of funds for Shales and the others whether through settlement or judgment.

6. After agreeing to represent Shales, Respondent engaged Glover to assist him in the representation of Shales, Glover, among other duties, prepared documents and pleadings, generated letters, researched legal issues, and provided office support. Glover also assisted Respondent with discovery, discovery conferences, and made contact with Respondent's clients and Respondent's opposing counsel on legal matters

7. In preparing to file a complaint on behalf of Shale, Respondent determined that Houston and Luera would be witnesses in Shales' complaint regarding their employment with Project Rise and the allegation that that IBT president, James Hoffa ("Hoffa"), knew that Local 330 and Romanazzi were associated with organized crime but failed to take any action to protect the members of Local 330, including his client James Shales.

8. On or about December 9, 2004, Respondent and Glover met with Houston and Luera. During this meeting, Houston told Respondent and Glover that he did not see any validity to the allegations that Romanazzi was an "associate of organized crime," as he did not meet the profile.

9. During the meeting, Respondent and Glover offered Houston and Luera ten percent of the recovery from any claims by Shales against Local 330 and Romanazzi, if they helped connect Romanazzi to organized crime as an "associate of organized crime." Neither Houston nor Luera accepted the offer.

10. At no time have Houston or Luera received a law license, nor have they ever been lawyers licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction.

11. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. attempting to violate the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, in violation of Rule 8.1(a)(1) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct by offering to share legal fees with a nonlawyer in violation of Rule 5.4(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and

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

COUNT III
(Criminal Conduct: Offering a Bribe to a Witness)

1-10. The Administrator reaffirms and realleges Paragraphs 1 through 10 of Count II, above.

11. At all times during matters pled in this complaint, 18 U.S.C Sec. 201(b)(3) provided that "whoever directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers, or promises anything of value to any person, or offers or promises such person to give anything of value to any other person or entity with intent to influence the testimony under oath " commits the criminal offense of bribery of a witness.

12. The offer described in paragraph 9, above, was made to Houston and Luera with the intent to influence their testimony under oath regarding Romanazzi's connection to organized crime.

13. On or about December 30, 2004, Respondent filed a lawsuit on behalf of Shales, John Pavlak, and Tamara L. Smith against Local 330, Romanazzi, the IBT and others in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entitled, Shales et al. v. General Chauffeurs Salesdrivers and Helpers Local Union No. 300 et al, 04 CV 8358. Included in the complaint in case number 04 CV 8358 was the allegation that as a result of Project Rise, Hoffa and the IBT knew that Local 330 and Romanazzi were associated with organized crime but that the IBT took no actions to protect the members of Local 330.

14. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer by violating 18 U.S.C. 201, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(3) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  3. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and

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

WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.

Cass R. Buscher
Counsel for Administrator
One Prudential Plaza
130 East Randolph Drive, #1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600
Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:   Cass R. Buscher