BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD

OF THE

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION

AND

DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

CYNTHIA ANN MILLER,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 6208335.

Commission No.

FILED --- January 22, 2013

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Tracy L. Kepler, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753, complains of Respondent Cynthia Ann Miller, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 7, 1991, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, and which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770. In support, the Administrator states:

(Dishonest billing practices and excessive fees - Juvenal Garcia)

1. At some point between March and June of 2009, Juvenal Garcia ("Garcia") needed an attorney to represent him in relation to three foreclosure complaints then currently pending against him. A mutual friend introduced Garcia to Respondent. At that time, Garcia spoke with Respondent by telephone to discuss the status of the commercial properties he owned and to see if Respondent could help him save the properties from foreclosure.

2. On or about June 29, 2009, Garcia executed an "Attorney Retainer Agreement," (the "agreement") wherein Respondent agreed to represent Garcia in "the facilitation and negotiation of loan modifications, or short sales, and going to court when necessary, at the following subject properties: 3002 W. 26th St., Chicago, IL 60623, 3010 W. 21st, Chicago, IL 60627 and 2874-2850 21st St., Chicago, IL 60623."

3. The agreement referenced in paragraph two, above, further stated that Garcia agreed to pay an initial retainer of $10,000 on June 29, 2009, $7,000 on July 10, 2009, and $7,000 on July 17, 2009. Respondent changed the due dates of the $7,000 payments to July 13, 2009, and July 20, 2009, on Garcia's request.

4. On June 29, 2009, Respondent received $10,000 in cash from Garcia. On July 13, 2009, Respondent received $7,000 in cash from Garcia. On June 29, 2009, Respondent received $7,000 in cash from Garcia.

5. As of June 29, 2009, all three properties referenced in paragraph two, above, were the subject of foreclosure proceedings filed before the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

6. At no time alleged in this complaint did Respondent file an appearance on behalf of Garcia in any of the three pending foreclosure proceedings.

7. In or about August 2009, Respondent determined that Garcia should file for bankruptcy protection to protect his assets. Respondent referred Garcia's matters to attorney Steven Potts ("Potts"). Garcia advised Potts that he had paid Respondent $24,000 in legal fees, but, as far as he knew, Respondent had done little, if any, work for him, and Garcia wanted Respondent to return all or part of the retainer to be held as property for his bankruptcy estate. Garcia also advised Potts that Respondent had never billed him for any work.

8. On September 17, 2009, Potts caused to be filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on Garcia's behalf in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The clerk of the court docketed the matter as In re Juvenal G. Garcia, Debtor and Debtor-in-Possession, case number 09 B 34462.

9. In the petition referenced in paragraph eight, above, Potts listed Garcia's $24,000 retainer payment to Respondent as an asset of Garcia's estate. Potts also listed Respondent as a creditor for an undetermined amount, since neither Potts nor Garcia were sure how much Respondent may have been owed for services purportedly rendered at the time of filing.

10. Between approximately September 17, 2009 and January 4, 2010, Garcia and Potts requested from Respondent copies of any and all billing statements for work Respondent performed on Garcia's behalf during the period of her representation and a return of any unearned fees paid by Garcia to Respondent. Respondent received Garcia and Potts' requests, but at no time prior to January 4, 2010, did Respondent provide Garcia or Potts with copies of her billing statements.

11. On January 4, 2010, Respondent provided Potts with her billing statements for services purportedly rendered to Garcia on case numbers 08 CH 47527, 08 CH 4661 and 08 CH 46642 (the case numbers for the foreclosure proceedings then pending on Garcia's three properties). The billing statements reflected that Respondent claimed to have worked 123.5 total hours, for a total fee for services provided of $21,612.50 on all three cases.

12. Respondent's entries on the billing statements provided to Garcia were false, and Respondent knew they were false, because Respondent double-billed, and, in some instances, triple-billed Garcia for the performance of identical work on each billing statement. In addition, Respondent billed excessive time at her attorney rate of $175 per hour for administrative tasks such as photocopying client documents and organization of client files, and also billed time for meetings and phone calls that never took place.

13. As of December 11, 2012, the date the Inquiry Panel voted that a complaint be filed in this matter, Respondent had not returned any unearned fees to Garcia.

14. At no time did Respondent perform sufficient services on Garcia's behalf which would justify the retention of the $24,000 in fees paid by Garcia.

15. By reason of the conduct described above that occurred before January 1, 2010, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. charging and obtaining unreasonable fees, in violation of Rule 1.5(a) of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. failure to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation consistent with the interests of the client, in violation of Rule 3.2 of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  3. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4) of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and,

  4. conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

16. By reason of the conduct described above that occurred after January 1, 2010, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. upon termination of representation, failure to refund unearned fees, in violation of Rule 1.16(d) of the 2010 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the 2010 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and,

  3. conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

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.

Tracy L. Kepler
Counsel for the Administrator
One Prudential Plaza
130 E. Randolph Dr., Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  Tracy L. Kepler