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

In the Matter of:

PETER J. WOODS,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No.  3070115.

 

Commission No.  08 CH 10

FILED -  February 13, 2008

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Melissa A. Smart, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent, Peter J. Woods, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on May 18, 1971, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or which brings the courts or the legal profession into disrepute:

Rules regarding Representation of Corporations in Federal Courts

1. At all times alleged in this complaint, Leo Stoller ("Stoller") was not and has never been licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois, the Northern District of Illinois, or any other state or Federal jurisdiction.

2. At all times alleged in this complaint, Respondent knew or should have known that Stoller was not and has never been licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois, the Northern District of Illinois, or any other state or federal jurisdiction.

3. At all times alleged in this complaint, federal rules and case law provided that corporations cannot appear before the court pro se and must be represented by licensed counsel in all matters pending in federal district court.

4. At all times alleged in this complaint, Rule 11(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") stated that: "Every pleading, written motion, and other paper shall be signed by at least one attorney of record… ."

5. At all times alleged in this complaint, Rule 11(b) of the FRCP stated that: "By presenting to the court (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) a pleading, written motion, or other paper, an attorney or unrepresented party is certifying that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances, …the allegations and other factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery… ."

6. At all times alleged in this complaint, Respondent knew or should have known of the provisions of Rules 11(a) and 11(b) of the FRCP.

Respondent's Agreement with Leo Stoller

7. On or before February 4, 2005, Respondent entered into an agreement with Stoller in which Respondent agreed to allow Stoller to use Respondent's name as the attorney for Stoller's corporate entities in a trademark infringement matter before the Northern District of Illinois, in which it was alleged that a company, Pure Fishing Inc., had improperly used the word "stealth" in the name of its products, when Stoller's companies purportedly owned the trademark on the word "stealth."

8. As part of the agreement between Respondent and Stoller, as described in Paragraph Seven, above, Stoller would represent himself and his own personal interests in the litigation, while Respondent would represent the corporate entities, which included: Central Mfg. Co., S Industries Inc., Terminator, Stealth, Rentamark, Rentamark.com, Stealth Sports and Marine, Association Network Management, USA Sports Co. Inc., Stealth Industries Inc., Central Mfg. Inc., S Industries and Sentra Industries Inc. et al. Respondent gave Stoller permission to prepare and sign Respondent's name to pleadings, and file these pleadings, in relation to this matter. At no time did Respondent expect or receive a legal fee from Stoller for his role in the case.

9. At all times alleged, Respondent knew or should have known that allowing Stoller to prepare, file and sign Respondent's name to pleadings in relation to the trademark infringement matter was false and/or misleading, as Respondent was the attorney responsible for representing the corporate entities.

10. At all times alleged, Respondent knew or should have known that by allowing Stoller to prepare, file and sign Respondent's name to pleadings in relation to the trademark infringement matter Respondent was aiding Stoller in circumventing the court's licensing requirement.

Central Mfg. Co. Complaint

11. On or about February 4, 2005, Stoller, or someone other than Respondent, acting at Stoller's direction, filed a complaint in the trademark infringement matter described in Paragraph Seven, above. The matter was entitled, Central Mfg. Co., et al., v. Pure Fishing Inc., et al., case no. 05 CV 725 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and was assigned to Judge George W. Lindberg.

12. The complaint, referenced in Paragraph Eleven, above, contained the purported signature of Respondent, as well as Respondent's address and phone number. Stoller, or someone other than Respondent, acting at Stoller's direction, signed Respondent's name to the complaint pursuant to their agreement referenced in Paragraph Eight, above. Nowhere on the complaint did it indicate that Respondent's name had been signed by someone other than Respondent.

13. At no time did Respondent sign the complaint, referenced in Paragraph Eleven, above.

14. Respondent knew or should have known his conduct in allowing the complaint, referenced in Paragraph Eleven, above, to be filed without his signature was designed to circumvent the court's licensing requirements and was violative of Rule 11(a) of the FRCP.

15. At no time prior to the filing of the complaint referenced in Paragraph Eleven above, did Respondent review the complaint or make reasonable inquiry to determine whether the allegations and other factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, were likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.

16. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the complaint referenced in Paragraph Eleven, above, to be filed without his having reviewed the complaint or having made reasonable inquiry to determine whether the allegations and other factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery, violated Rule 11(b) of the FRCP.

17. Count One, Paragraph One, of the complaint in case no. 05 CV 725 stated that one of the corporate entity plaintiffs, Central Mfg. Co., was a Delaware corporation.

18. At no time was the entity, Central Mfg. Co., a Delaware corporation. Respondent knew or should have known this fact and that the allegation in Count One, Paragraph One of the complaint in case no. 05 CV 725 was false, since Central Mfg. Co. was not a Delaware corporation.

19. At no time prior to the filing of the complaint referenced in Paragraph Eleven, above, did Respondent make reasonable inquiry to determine whether or not the entity, Central Mfg. Co., was a Delaware corporation.

20. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the complaint to be filed without making reasonable inquiry to determine whether or not the entity, Central Mfg. Co., was in fact a Delaware corporation was violative of Rule 11(b) of the FRCP.

First Appearance Form

21. On or about February 4, 2005, Stoller, or someone other than Respondent acting at Stoller's direction, filed an attorney appearance form in case no. 05 CV 725. The appearance form indicated that Respondent and Stoller represented Central Mfg. Co., Lindy-Little Joe, Inc., and Leo Stoller in relation to case no. 05 CV 725.

22. Section A of the appearance form, referenced in Paragraph Twenty-one, above, contained the purported signature of Respondent, as well as Respondent's address and phone number. Stoller, or someone other than Respondent, acting at Stoller's direction, signed Respondent's name to the appearance form pursuant to their agreement referenced in Paragraph Eight, above. Nowhere on the appearance form did it indicate that Respondent's name had been signed by someone other than Respondent.

23. At no time did Respondent sign the appearance form, referenced in Paragraph Twenty-one, above.

24. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the appearance form to be filed without his signature was designed to circumvent the court's licensing requirements and was violative of Rule 11(a) of the FRCP.

25. At no time prior to the filing of the appearance form, referenced in Paragraph Twenty-one, above, did Respondent review the appearance form or make reasonable inquiry to determine whether the factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, were likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.

26. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the appearance form to be filed without his having reviewed the appearance form or having made reasonable inquiry to determine whether the factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery violated Rule 11(b) of the FRCP.

27. On April 11, 2005, the defendants filed a counter-claim against the plaintiffs in case no. 05 CV 725.

28. On or about May 19, 2005, attorneys Robert Benjamin, Beverly Berneman and John Brom ("Benjamin, Berneman and Brom") filed their additional appearances on behalf of the plaintiffs and counter-defendants in case no. 05 CV 725. Respondent also continued as an attorney of record in the matter.

29. On or about May 26, 2005, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in case no. 05 CV 725.

30. On or about October 3, 2005, Benjamin, Berneman and Brom filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for the plaintiffs and counter-defendants in case no. 05 CV 725. As part of their motion, Benjamin, Berneman and Brom argued that their continued representation of plaintiffs may result in the violation of various rules of professional conduct, including: RPC 3.1, 3.2, 3.3(a)(1) and 3.3(a)(12).

31. On or about October 12, 2005, prior to any ruling on their motion to withdraw, Benjamin, Berneman and Brom filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint in case no. 05 CV 725.

32. On or about October 12, 2005, the court granted Benjamin, Berneman and Brom's motion to withdraw as counsel for plaintiffs and counter-defendants in case no. 05 CV 725.

Rule 11 Certification

33. On or about October 14, 2005, Judge Lindburg ordered that in light of the allegations in plaintiff's counsel's motion to withdraw, the court would not consider the plaintiff's proposed second amended complaint unless Respondent filed an affidavit certifying that the allegations in the proposed second amended complaint complied with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11.

34. On or about October 21, 2005, Stoller, or someone other than Respondent, acting at Stoller's direction, filed a pleading entitled, Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005 in case no. 05 CV 725. Attached to, and filed with Plaintiff's Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005 was a document entitled, "Declaration of Peter Woods." This Declaration stated that Respondent certified that the pleading and the plaintiff's proposed second amended complaint complied with the requirements of Rule 11 of the FRCP.

35. The Plaintiff's Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005 and the Declaration, referenced in Paragraph Thirty-four above, contained the purported signature of Respondent. Stoller, or someone other than Respondent, acting at Stoller's direction, signed Respondent's name to the Plaintiff's Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005 and the attached Declaration pursuant to their agreement referenced in Paragraph Eight, above. Nowhere on the Plaintiff's Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005 or the attached Declaration, did it indicate that Respondent's name had been signed by someone other than Respondent.

36. At no time did Respondent sign the Plaintiff's Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005, or the Declaration, referenced in Paragraph Thirty- four, above.

37. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005, and the Declaration to be filed without his signature was violative of Rule 11(a) of the FRCP.

38. At no time prior to the filing of the Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005, and the Declaration, referenced in Paragraph Thirty-four, above, did Respondent review the Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005, and the Declaration, or make reasonable inquiry to determine whether the allegations and other factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, were likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.

39. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the Response to Court Order Dated October 14, 2005, and the Declaration to be filed without making reasonable inquiry to determine whether the allegations and other factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, were likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery, violated Rule 11(b) of the FRCP.

Second Appearance Form

40. On October 27, 2005, Judge Lindburg issued a minute order in case no. 05 CV 725 in which he ordered that all corporate parties to the case that did not have an attorney appearance on file would be defaulted on November 2, 2005.

41. On October 28, 2005, Stoller, or someone other than Respondent, acting at Stoller's direction, filed another attorney appearance form in case no. 05 CV 725. This appearance form indicated that Respondent represented Central Mfg. Co., S Industries Inc., Terminator, Stealth, Rentamark, Rentamark.com, Stealth Sports and Marine, Association Network Management, USA Sports Co. Inc., Stealth Industries Inc., Central Mfg. Inc., S Industries, Sentra Industries Inc. et al., in relation to case no. 05 CV 725.

42. The appearance form, referenced in Paragraph Forty-one, above, required the signature of the individual, or individuals, entering their appearances in the matter. The appearance form contained the purported signature of Respondent, as well as Respondent's address and phone number. Stoller, or someone other than Respondent, acting at Stoller's direction, signed Respondent's name to the appearance form pursuant to their agreement referenced in Paragraph Eight, above. Nowhere on the appearance form did it indicate that Respondent's name had been signed by someone other than Respondent.

43. At no time did Respondent sign the appearance form, referenced in Paragraph Forty-one, above.

44. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the appearance form to be filed without his signature was designed to circumvent the court's licensing requirements and was violative of Rule 11(a) of the FRCP.

45. At no time prior to the filing of the appearance form, referenced in Paragraph Forty-one, above, did Respondent review the appearance form, or make reasonable inquiry to determine whether the factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, were likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.

46. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the appearance form to be filed without making reasonable inquiry to determine whether the other factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, were likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery, violated Rule 11(b) of the FRCP.

Motion to Compel

47. On or about November 3, 2005, Stoller sent an e-mail to counsel for the defendant in case no. 05 CV 725, Timothy C. Meece ("Meece"). The e-mail stated that if Meece did not voluntarily submit to a deposition in relation to case no. 05 CV 725, Stoller would file a motion to compel.

48. On or about November 3, 2005, Stoller sent an e-mail to the other counsel for the defendant in case no. 05 CV 725, Lance G. Johnson ("Johnson"). The e-mail stated that if Johnson did not voluntarily submit to a deposition in relation to case no. 05 CV 725, Stoller would file a motion to compel on November 4, 2005.

49. On or about November 4, 2005, Stoller, or someone other than Respondent acting at Stoller's direction, filed a motion to compel the depositions of Meece and Johnson in case no. 05 CV 725. The motion to compel alleged that Meece and Johnson concocted a scheme to defraud Stoller and his company out of $100,000 and 30 federal trademarks. The motion to compel also stated that Judge Lindberg, "is an integral part of the Meece-Johnson scheme to defraud the Federal Court and to defraud Leo Stoller… ." The motion to compel was signed by Respondent.

50. At no time prior to the filing of the motion to compel referenced in Paragraph Forty-nine above, did Respondent review the motion to compel or make reasonable inquiry to determine whether the allegations and other factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, were likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.

51. Respondent knew or should have known that his conduct in allowing the motion to compel to be filed without making reasonable inquiry to determine whether the allegations and other factual contentions had evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, were likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery, violated Rule 11(b) of the FRCP.

52. On or about November 16, 2005, the court entered an order dismissing plaintiff's complaint in case no. 05 CV 725 and entering default judgment against counter-defendant, Stoller, on all counterclaims.

53. As a result of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

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

  2. bringing a proceeding or asserting an issue where there is no basis for doing so that is not frivolous in violation of Rule 3.1 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  3. making a statement of material fact or law to a tribunal which the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is false in violation of Rule 3.3(a)(1);

  4. 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;

  5. making a statement the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicative officer, or public legal officer, in violation of Rule 8.2(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

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

  7. engaging in 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

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

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

Melissa A. Smart
Counsel for the Administrator
130 East Randolph Drive, #1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: 312-565-2600 

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:   Melissa A. Smart