2001 Annual Report of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission
Table of Contents
To the Honorable, the Chief
The annual report of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission for 2001 is submitted to the Court, to the members of the Bar of Illinois, and to the public in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 751.
The report is a statement of activities of the Commission for calendar year 2001 and an accounting and audit of the monies received and expended during the twelve-month period, which ended December 31, 2001.
Benedict Schwarz II, Chairman
Mary Robinson, Administrator
The Master Roll of attorneys registered to practice law in Illinois for the year 2001 contained the names of 74,311 attorneys as of October 31, 2001. After that date, the Commission began the 2002 registration process, so that the total reported as of October 31, 2001, does not include the 1,622 attorneys who first took their oath of office in November or December 2001.
The 2001 total shows an increase of only 650 attorneys over the number who registered in 2000 (as compared to average increases of at least 1,600 each year prior to 2000). This small increase continues to reflect a slowing in the number of new lawyers admitted each year, a trend seen since 1995.
Also, the amendments to the rules governing the registration categories, first effective for the 2000 registration process, had an impact on the total number of lawyers. As a result of the changes, the number of attorneys removed from the Master Roll for reasons including nonpayment, death, discipline and retirement continues to remain high. In 2001, 1,986 lawyers were removed as compared to the average number of 1,100 for the years prior to 2000, before the amendments took effect.
Chart A shows further demographic information for attorneys registered in 2001 and Chart B shows the breakdown by the registration categories set forth in Rule 756.
Chart A: Age, Gender and Years in Practice for Attorneys Registered in 2001
Chart B: Registration Categories for 2001
Charts C and D show the distribution by Judicial Circuit and by County of the 57,136 registered attorneys who report a principal business address in Illinois. Another 17,175 attorneys report a business address outside Illinois but register as either active and able to practice in Illinois or inactive. Those 17,175 attorneys are not included in Charts C and D. There was very little growth in the lawyer population in 2001. Cook County now has over 40,000 lawyers or 70% of the lawyers who have an Illinois business address. There was a decrease in the lawyer population in three out of the five appellate districts. Of the 102 counties, 44 counties saw a slight decrease in the number of lawyers in 2001. Twenty-four counties saw no change and 34 counties experienced a modest increase in the lawyer population for 2001. Of the counties with 100 or more lawyers, 7 out of 23 counties showed a decrease in 2001, and the fastest growing counties for the past two years either experienced very little growth or saw a decrease compared to 2000. Lake County, last year one of the fastest growing counties, had the largest decrease with a 5% drop from 2000.
Chart C: Registration by Judicial Districts for 2001
Chart D: Registered Attorneys by County
Trust Account Disclosure Reports
Beginning with the 2002 registration process, the Court amended Supreme Court Rule 756 and mandated that all lawyers disclose whether they maintained a trust account during the past year and if the trust account was an IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Account) trust account, as provided in Rule 1.15. If a lawyer did not maintain a trust account, the lawyer was required to disclose why no trust account was maintained. A lawyer would not be considered registered without completion of the trust account disclosure report. The chart here shows the responses received for lawyers who are deemed registered for 2002.
Chart E: Trust Account Information for 2002
Chart F: Malpractice Survey
Also as part of the 2002 registration process, the Court instructed the Commission to survey the Illinois bar concerning malpractice insurance coverage. Approximately 60,000 responses were received as reported below.
During 2001, the Commission docketed 5,811 investigations, a slight increase of 95 more investigations than 2000. Those 5,811 investigations involved charges against 3,919 different attorneys. This means that about 5% of all registered attorneys became the subject of an investigation in 2001. Nearly a quarter of the 3,919 attorneys were the subject of more than one investigation docketed in 2001, as shown in Chart 1.
Chart 1: Investigations Docketed in 2001
Charts 2 and 3 below report the classification of investigations docketed in 2001, based on an initial assessment of the nature of the misconduct alleged, if any, and the type of legal context in which the facts apparently arose. Chart 2 reflects that the most frequent areas of a grievance are: neglect of the client’s cause, failure to communicate with the client, fraudulent or deceptive activity, excessive fees, and improper management of trust funds.
Consistent with prior years, the top areas of practice most likely to lead to a grievance of attorney misconduct are: criminal law, domestic relations, tort, and real estate, as shown in Chart 3.
Chart 2: Classification of Charges Docketed in 2001 by Violation Alleged
Chart 3: Classification of Charges Docketed in 2001 by Area of Law
If an investigation fails to reveal sufficiently serious, provable misconduct, the Administrator will close the investigation. If an investigation produces evidence of serious misconduct, the case is referred to the Inquiry Board, unless the matter is filed directly with the Supreme Court under Rules 761, 762(a), or 763 because it is based upon a criminal conviction involving moral turpitude, because the respondent-attorney moves for disbarment prior to the referral to Inquiry, or because the matter is based upon discipline imposed by another jurisdiction. The Inquiry Board operates in panels of three, composed of two attorneys and one nonlawyer, all appointed by the Commission. An Inquiry panel has authority to vote a formal complaint if it finds evidence to support a charge, to close an investigation if it does not so find, or to place an attorney on supervision under the direction of the panel pursuant to Commission Rule 108. The Administrator cannot pursue formal charges without authorization by an Inquiry Board panel.
Comparatively few investigations result in the filing of formal charges. Charts 4 and 5 show the number of investigations docketed and terminated during 2001, and the type of action which terminated the investigations.
Chart 4: Investigations Docketed
Chart 5: Investigations Concluded in 2001
Once an Inquiry Board panel authorizes the filing of charges, a formal complaint setting forth all allegations of misconduct pending against the attorney is filed, and the matter proceeds before the Hearing Board. The Hearing Board functions much like a trial court in a civil case and is comprised of three panel members, two lawyers and one nonlawyer, appointed by the Commission. Upon filing and service of the complaint, the case becomes public. In addition to complaints alleging misconduct filed pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753, and complaints alleging conviction of a criminal offense under Rule 761, the Hearing Board also entertains petitions for reinstatement pursuant to Rule 767, petitions for transfer to inactive status because of impairment pursuant to Rule 758, and petitions for restoration to active status pursuant to Rule 759.
Chart 6 shows the activity before the Hearing Board in 2001. The drop in disciplinary complaints filed during 1999 and 2000, attributed to staff turnover, was successfully reversed in 2001, with filings returning to prior levels. The return to full staffing also resulted in significantly more activity at hearing, with 71 contested and default hearings held during 2001, compared to 43 in 2000.
Chart 6: Matters Before the Hearing Board in 2001
Chart 7 shows the years in practice of the lawyers who were the subject of a formal complaint in 2001. The number of formal complaints filed against attorneys in practice for fewer than ten years, which peaked in 1998 (22%) and 2000 (21%), fell to only 14% in 2001.
Chart 7: Disciplinary Complaints Filed in 2001
Charts 8 and 9 show the types of misconduct alleged in the 126 disciplinary complaints filed during 2001 and the areas of practice in which the alleged misconduct arose. In large part, the categories most frequently seen in formal complaints track the categories most frequently seen in the initial charges, as reported in Charts 2 and 3. Also, the number of formal complaints alleging misconduct arising not as part of a legal representation continues to remain high: criminal conduct and personal misconduct (fraudulent/deceptive activity). Also, many complaints continue to include a count alleging misconduct impeding the disciplinary process (failure to cooperate/false statements in a disciplinary matter).
Chart 8: Types of Misconduct Alleged in Complaints Filed Before Hearing Board in 2001
Chart 9: Area of Law Involved in Complaints Filed Before Hearing Board in 2001
Chart 10 shows the type of action by which the Hearing Board concluded 129 cases during 2001.
Chart 10: Actions Taken by Hearing Board in Matters Terminated in 2001
Once the Hearing Board files its report in a case, either party may file exceptions before the Review Board, which serves as an appellate tribunal. Chart 11 shows activity at the Review Board during 2001.
Chart 11: Trend of Matters in the Review Board in 2001
Only the Supreme Court has authority to sanction attorneys for misconduct, except for a Board reprimand which can be imposed in a disciplinary case without order of the Court by either the Hearing or Review Board. In 2001, the Hearing Board administered four reprimands (see Chart 10). Other than Board reprimands, the Hearing and Review Board reports are recommendations to the Supreme Court.
During 2001, the Court entered 123 sanctions against 123 attorneys. Chart 12 reflects the nature of the orders entered.
Chart 12: Disciplinary Sanctions Ordered by the Supreme Court in 2001
Of the 123 sanctions entered by the Supreme Court, 44% were entered pursuant to consent petitions. Of the 26 disbarments, 16 were by consent petition.
Charts 13 and 14 provide demographic information on 127 lawyers (the 123 attorneys sanctioned by the Supreme Court during 2001, as well as the four attorneys who were reprimanded by the Hearing Board in 2001). As was true in prior years, the vast majority of attorneys sanctioned during 2001 have practiced more than 10 years; all are over 30 years old; and most are male. Only 10% of the attorneys sanctioned in 2001 had practiced fewer than 10 years, a reversal of a trend first reported in 1996. Chart 15 tracks the type of misconduct that led to the sanction orders entered in 2001. The lawyer with the fewest years in practice was admitted in 1998 and was disbarred and a lawyer admitted in 1951 had the most years in practice and was censured.
Chart 13: Attorneys Disciplined in 2001
Chart 14: County of Practice
Chart 15: Misconduct Committed by the 127 Lawyers Disciplined in 2001*
Disciplinary cases reach the Court in several ways. Chart 16 reflects the actions taken by the Supreme Court in disciplinary matters in varying procedural contexts in which those matters are presented.
Chart 16: Orders Entered by Supreme Court in Disciplinary Cases in 2001
In addition to the sanctions ordered during 2001, the Court ordered briefing and oral argument in In re Paul M. Storment, Jr., No. 92832, which presents the issue of whether an Illinois lawyer, formerly licensed but subsequently disbarred in Missouri, can take a fee for referring a case to a lawyer in Missouri. The respondent had previously been suspended in Illinois for two years for telling a client to lie under oath in a custody hearing. He was disbarred by the Missouri Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri for the same conduct. After his Illinois suspension ended, but while he remained disbarred in Missouri, he was approached to represent a client charged in a criminal case in the U.S. District Court in Missouri. He referred the case to a Missouri lawyer, but kept $18,500 of the $58,500 fee paid by the client. The Hearing Board and Review Board concluded that taking that fee did not constitute misconduct. The Administrator filed exceptions. The Court heard oral arguments on March 12, 2002. The Administrator argued that a lawyer may not take a referral fee where an ethical impediment (here, the lawyer’s disbarment in the court and state where the case was heard) prevents the attorney himself from representing the client.
In addition to activity in disciplinary cases, the Supreme Court entertains pleadings in non-disciplinary matters that affect an attorney’s status. Chart 17 reflects the orders entered in such cases during 2001.
Chart 17: Non-Disciplinary Actions by the Supreme Court
Chart 18: A Comparison 1989-2001
Effective for the 2002 registration year, the Court amended Supreme Court Rule 756 to require lawyers to report trust account information as part of the annual registration process. Rule 756(d) requires a lawyer to identify all trust accounts maintained by the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm during the past year and to indicate whether each account is an IOLTA account. If a lawyer does not maintain a trust account, the lawyer shall state the reason why no such account is required. If a lawyer fails to provide the information required by Rule 756(d), the lawyer will be deemed not registered for the year as provided in Rule 756(e). The responses received for the 2002 registration year are set forth in Chart E on Page 5.
The Client Protection Program was created by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1994 by the adoption of Rule 780. In 2001, the program approved 73 claims totaling $257,219 to clients who lost money or property due to the dishonest conduct of attorneys holding an Illinois license. The program may reimburse losses up to $10,000 for each client. The majority of claims involve sums less than $10,000. Fifty-two percent of the approvals involved unearned fee claims, which also constituted 24% of the payouts. The program does not cover losses resulting from professional negligence or malpractice and does not consider claims involving contractual disputes. Awards are made out of the Disciplinary Fund. The rules governing the administration of the program are contained in Commission Rules 501 through 512.
Chart 19: Classification of Approved Claims
Chart 20: Summary of Approved Claims
The Commission’s Ethics Inquiry Program is a telephone inquiry service that allows Illinois attorneys and members of the public to call for help in resolving hypothetical questions about ethical dilemmas, the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and the Rules of the Commission. No legal opinion or binding advisory opinion is given.
In 2001, the Ethics Inquiry Program handled over 3,000 calls from attorneys, including 600 calls from lawyers with questions about the new Rule 756 trust account reporting requirement. This figure does not include calls received from nonlawyers. Addition information about the program can be obtained from the ARDC website at www.iardc.org.
Illinois Professional Responsibility Institute: Professionalism Seminar
Since November 1996, the Commission has sponsored a seminar on law office management issues and ethical obligations of lawyers. The seminar is held three times a year for lawyers who are required to attend as part of their disciplinary sanctions or who attend voluntarily. Over 100 lawyers have attended the seminar thus far.
The seminar was created in cooperation with members from the Chicago Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association and Cook County Bar Association, to further the Commission’s efforts to develop preventive and remedial programs for attorneys on relevant ethics issues. The Professionalism Seminar is taught mostly by select, volunteer practicing Illinois attorneys. Any attorney interested in learning more about the Professionalism Seminar, may call Mary F. Andreoni, Administrative Counsel, ARDC, Chicago, or consult the ARDC web site at www.iardc.org.
ARDC Web Site
On October 1, 2001, the Commission launched the ARDC web site (www.iardc.org). The site presently contains recently filed disciplinary sanction orders issued by the Supreme Court, Hearing Board and Review Board reports, the schedule of hearings in public disciplinary cases, as well as the Rules of Professional Conduct. Information and forms relating to registration matters and the investigation process are also available on the site. In the future, the site will also include a searchable database of disciplinary reports and the ability to search the Master Roll for certain basic, public registration information about Illinois lawyers.
Speeches and Presentations and Articles
The Commission continued its efforts to familiarize attorneys with the ethics rules and concerns by having its legal staff make more than 100 presentations to bar associations, law firms, law schools, continuing legal education seminars and civic groups. Any group interested in having a Commission representative speak to their group, may call Mary F. Andreoni, Administrative Counsel, ARDC, Chicago.
Also, Commission lawyers published a number of articles that appeared in various legal publications. Some of those articles are reprinted on the ARDC’s web site at www.iardc.org.
The ARDC Commission consists of four members of the Illinois Bar and three non-lawyers. The Commissioners, who serve without compensation, establish ARDC policies, appoint members of the ARDC Inquiry and Hearing Boards and, subject to the approval of the Supreme Court, appoint the Commission's chief executive officer, the Administrator. The ARDC Administrator is Mary Robinson. As of April 2002, the Commissioners of the ARDC include Benedict Schwarz II, of West Dundee, as Chairman, Donn F. Bailey, Ph.D. of Chicago, Tobias G. Barry of LaSalle, Patricia C. Bobb of Chicago, John P. Kujawski of Belleville, James J. McDonough of Chicago, and Brian McFadden of Springfield.
Retirement of J. Jeffrey Allen
On December 20, 2001, Commissioner J. Jeffrey Allen, a Joliet lawyer, resigned his appointment as a lawyer member commissioner upon his appointment as a judge to serve on the 12th Circuit Court in Will County. He was appointed by the Court as a Commissioner in April 2001. Mr. Allen was the Program Director and Managing Attorney of the Will County Legal Assistance Program and was a former president of the Will County Bar Association.
Appointment of Tobias G. Barry
On December 20, 2001, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed former Appellate Court Justice Tobias G. Barry, as a Commissioner. Justice Barry served for 20 years on the Illinois Appellate Court for the Third District, from 1974 to 1994.
During that time, he served as president of both the Illinois Judges Association and the Lawyers Assistance Program. Justice Barry now practices with the LaSalle law firm of Aplington, Kaufman, McClintock, Steele and Barry, Ltd. Admitted to practice law in 1952, he received his J.D. from the University of Notre Dame and his undergraduate degree from Marquette University. He replaces J. Jeffrey Allen as Commissioner. His term expires December 31, 2003.
Retirement of William F. Costigan
On December 31, 2001, William F. Costigan concluded his term on the Review Board. He is a partner in the Bloomington law firm of Costigan & Wollrab, P.C. Mr. Costigan was appointed to the Review Board in 1990, and served as chair of the Review Board from 1998 through 2000. Prior to his appointment on the Review Board, Mr. Costigan served on the Inquiry Board from 1973 to 1978 and on the Hearing Board from 1978 to 1990. He received his J.D. from the University of Illinois and was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1951.
Appointment of Bruce Jay Meachum
Effective January 1, 2002, the
Court appointed Danville lawyer, Bruce Jay Meachum, to served on the
Review Board. Mr. Meachum is
Retirement of Gary V. Johnson
On December 31, 2001, Gary V. Johnson concluded his term on the Review Board. He is a partner in the Aurora law firm of Camic, Johnson, Wilson & McCulloch, where he concentrates in the area of criminal law. Mr. Johnson was appointed to the Review Board in 1993. He received his J.D. from Drake University and was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1978.
Appointment of John W. Rapp Jr.
Effective January 1, 2002, John W. Rapp, Jr., a retired judge from Mount Carroll, was appointed by the Court to serve on the Review Board, to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Gary V. Johnson. Justice Rapp served as a circuit judge in Carroll County beginning in 1970, and was Chief Judge of the 15th Circuit Court from 1982 until 1998, when he was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District. He was admitted in 1965 and received his J.D. from Loyola University, Chicago. His term expires December 31, 2004.
Retirement of Melissa A. Chapman Rheinecker
In September 2001, Melissa A. Chapman Rheinecker resigned her position on the Review Board, upon her appointment to the Illinois Appellate Court for the Fifth District. Before joining the bench, Ms. Chapman was a partner in the Granite City law firm of Morris B. Chapman & Associates, Ltd., concentrating in the area of personal injury litigation.
Appointment of Terrence V. O’Leary
Effective September 20, 2001, Terrence V. O’Leary, a Granite City lawyer, was appointed by the Court to serve on the Review Board, to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Melissa A. Chapman Rheinecker. He received his J.D. in 1973 from St. Louis University. Mr. O’Leary is a partner in the law firm of Morris B. Chapman & Associates, Ltd., in Granite City, where he concentrates his practice in the area of personal injury. He is a past president of the Madison County Bar Association and Tri-City Bar Association. His term expires December 31, 2003.
The Commission engaged the services of Grant Thornton LLP to conduct an independent audit as required by Supreme Court Rule 751(e)(7). The audited financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2001, are attached.
Attorney Registration and Disciplinary
Commission of The Supreme Court of Illinois
The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois (the “Commission”) was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court (the “Court”) under Rules 751 through 756 of the Court effective February 1, 1973, and subsequent additional rules and amendments. The Commission and the Office of the Administrator (the “Administrator”) maintain the Master Roll of Attorneys and investigate and prosecute claims against Illinois attorneys whose conduct might tend to defeat the administration of justice or bring the Court or the legal profession into disrepute.
Amendments to those rules and additional significant rules of the Court impacting the Commission’s operations are as follows:
Basis of Presentation
Cash and Cash Equivalents
The estimated useful lives of the fixed assets are as follows:
Deferred Registration Fees
Deferred Rent Expense
Significant Estimates and
Concentrations of Risk
The Commission’s registration fees are sent directly by registering attorneys to a lock box under the sole supervision of LaSalle Bank (the “Bank”). The Bank accounts for the contents of the lock box, and all receipts are deposited to the Commission’s account at the Bank. The Bank sends an accounting for these funds to the Commission’s registration department for processing and comparison with the registration and billing records.
The Commission maintains most of its cash and money market funds at the Bank. The balance is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation up to $100,000. As of December 31, 2001, the Commission’s cash in excess of FDIC insurance coverage approximated $416,000. The Commission has not experienced any losses in such accounts and believes it is not exposed to any significant credit risk on its cash balances. All investment transactions are handled by the Bank’s Trust Department. All investment securities are held in safekeeping at the Trust Department.
The Commission receives cost reimbursements for investigative and disciplinary costs from disciplined attorneys. Cost reimbursement is billed at the time that discipline is imposed by the Court, but may not be a total reimbursement or match the period in which the investigative disciplinary costs were incurred. Between November 1995 and November 2000, the Commission regularly sought entry of judgments by the Court with interest at the rate charged by the State of Illinois (9% at December 31, 2001) for all invoices not paid within 30 days of the initial billing. The Commission has also established payment plans for disciplined attorneys. Effective November 1, 2000, the Commission was limited to $1,000 in cost reimbursement for each disciplined attorney, absent exceptional circumstances. Procedures for resuming collection of cost in light of the amendment are being finalized.
The Commission cannot reasonably estimate the collectibility of the cost reimbursements. Whether the Commission can fully collect all cost reimbursements is dependent upon each disciplined attorney’s ability to pay and the current economic environment. Therefore, the Commission records cost reimbursements as revenue under the cost recovery method when the reimbursements are received. In 2001, the Commission collected approximately $49,700 in cost reimbursements. At December 31, 2001, approximately $764,000 in additional amounts remain unpaid by attorney-respondents, for which a corresponding allowance is recorded.
Fixed assets at December 31, 2001, consist of:
The Commission leases its Chicago and Springfield offices under operating lease agreements. The Chicago office lease, which began in May 1993, has a term of 15 years and provides for a minimum annual base rent plus related taxes and operating expenses. In addition, the lease provided 32 months “free rent” with the first rent payment made on January 1, 1997. Pursuant to the lease, the landlord advanced a sum equal to the present value of estimated taxes and operating costs for the 32-month period and the Commission made monthly payments for actual tax and operating cost assessments during that period. This amount and the value of the “free rent” is included in deferred rent.
The Springfield office lease, which began in November 1995, has a term of 7 years and provides for a minimum annual rent. The lease gives the Commission the option to renew the lease for another 7-year period.
Rent expense under all lease agreements was approximately $1,051,000 in 2001.
Future minimum lease payments, including estimated liability for taxes and operating expenses, relating to lease agreements in excess of one year are:
On August 9, 1985, the Commission formed a trust to replace the Medicare coverage lost by its employees when the Social Security Administration ruled that Commission employees were ineligible for benefits.
Previously, the Commission had
committed to pay the future cost of Medicare premiums for former employees
meeting certain criteria who were employed by the Commission before
The Commission engages the services of an actuary to compute the liability every other year.
The Commission maintains a separate trust for the Medicare replacement reserve. The trust fund assets are included in the Commission’s investments (see note E). The trust fund assets at fair value as of December 31, 2001, are as follows:
The liability will increase or decrease in future years due to changes in eligible employees, benefits paid and possible changes in assumptions based on experience factors and applicable discount rates.
The Commission maintains a defined contribution retirement plan and trust for the benefit of all eligible employees. Based on the decision of the Social Security Administration discussed in note H, the Commission enhanced employees’ retirement benefits. Employee contributions are not permitted under the Plan’s provisions. The Commission contributes 18% of compensation for eligible employees, which approximated $939,000 in 2001. The Commission also pays the Plan’s administrative expenses, which approximated $55,500 in 2001.
Various complaints and actions
have been filed against the Commission. At December 31, 2001, the
Commission believes that pending matters do not present any serious
prospect of negative financial consequences.