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

In the Matter of:

MICHAEL JOSEPH CAMINITI,

Attorney-Respondent,

No.  6183738.

and

PETER DAVID CAMINITI,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 6190538.

 

Commission No.  08 CH 48

 

 

 

Commission No. 08 CH 49

FILED - June 16, 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, Michael Joseph Caminti, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 1, 1982 and Respondent, Peter David Caminti, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 7, 1985, and alleges that these Respondents have engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or which brings the courts or the legal profession into disrepute:

ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS

1. At all times alleged in this complaint, Respondents Michael Caminiti ("Michael") and Peter Caminiti ("Peter") were licensed Certified Public Accountants, having obtained this designation in 1981 and 1983 respectively, before they were licensed attorneys.

2. In or around 1984, Respondent Peter was employed as a law clerk at the firm of Handler & Associates ("the Handler firm"). Under the supervision of a licensed attorney in the firm, Peter worked with Louis and Delia Crosoli ("Louis," "Delia," or "the Crosolis"), who were clients of the Handler firm, on their tax and accounting matters. On November 7, 1985, Peter was admitted as a licensed attorney in Illinois. At that time, Peter became the attorney at the Handler firm primarily responsible for providing the Crosolis with legal assistance in their tax and accounting matters.

3. The Crosolis had no children, no living parents or siblings and no close family relatives. Peter maintained a professional relationship with the Crosolis throughout their lifetimes. Louis died on March 22, 1994 and Delia died on July 15, 1997.

4. Between 1984 and 1988, Peter's professional relationship with the Crosolis developed into a friendship that existed until the Crosolis passed away. At times throughout the friendship the Crosolis were guests at Respondents' family functions, Respondents assisted the Crosolis in household chores and tasks, and both Respondents were frequent visitors to the Crosolis' apartment.

5. In or around 1988, Peter left the Handler firm and, along with others, started the law firm of Binger, Caminiti & Iatorola. At this time, the Crosolis retained Binger, Caminiti & Iatorola to handle their legal matters and retained Peter as their accountant and tax counsel for financial and estate planning matters.

6. In or around 1989, Peter's brother, Respondent Michael joined the law firm of Binger, Caminiti & Iatorola, which later became Caminiti & Iatorola. From the time he started at the firm in 1989, Michael also became involved in representing the Crosolis in relation to their accounting, tax, financial and estate planning matters.

7. In or about May 1993, Michael and Peter established the law firm of Caminiti & Caminiti ("the Caminiti firm"). From May 1993 to the date the Inquiry Panel voted a complaint in this matter, Michael and Peter were partners, principals and the only attorneys in the law firm of Caminiti & Caminiti. In or around May 1993, the Crosolis retained Caminiti & Caminiti to handle their legal matters, and continued to employ Peter and Michael as their accountants and tax counsel for financial and estate planning matters.

8. Through their participation in the Caminiti firm, both Michael and Peter had mutual access to law firm information, conducted themselves as a law firm and held themselves out to the public as a law firm.

9. From 1993 until their deaths, Louis and Delia were clients of the Caminiti firm and sought counsel from the firm on matters related to their accounting, tax, financial and estate planning matters.

10. From 1982 until the Crosolises deaths, as a result of his representation of Louis and Delia, Respondent Peter was aware that the Crosolis' estate contained assets, primarily securities, which at any given time had a value of over $1 million, and which at times exceeded $2 million. From 1989 until the Crosolises deaths, as a result of his representation of Louis and Delia, Respondent Michael was aware that the Crosolis' estate contained assets, primarily securities, which at any given time had a value of over $1 million, and which at times exceeded $2 million.

11. In or around 1994, Respondent Michael accepted a job offer from Sara Lee Corporation. At that time, Respondent Michael primarily worked for Sara Lee Corporation, but continued to maintain a partnership interest in the Caminiti firm and continued to do legal work for the firm, including matters related to the Crosolis.

12. On March 22, 1994, Louis Crosoli died intestate. At the time of her husband's death, Delia was eighty-three years old.

13. On or about April 21, 1994, Delia was appointed independent representative and executor of Louis' estate, In the Matter of the Estate of the Estate of Louis J. Crosoli, case number 94 P 3539, in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Respondents acted as the attorneys for the estate by opening the probate estate and aiding Delia in handling Louis' estate matters.

14. On or about June 28, 1995, Respondents closed Louis' estate, case number 94 P 3539.

15. Following Louis' death and their handling of Louis' estate matters, Respondents continued their close personal friendship with Delia, assisting her with day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping, housekeeping and banking, as well as providing her with various legal services regarding tax and estate matters.

16. Sometime between March 22, 1994 and July 1, 1994, Respondent Peter drafted a will and revocable living trust on behalf of Delia.

17. On or about July 1, 1994, Delia executed the will and revocable living trust. At that time, the Delia M. Crosoli Revocable Living Trust of 1994 (the "Trust") was established. The Trust had one sole operating checking account, for which Peter was one of the signatories. Peter was named as executor of the will, with Michael as a successor executor. Delia was trustee of the Trust. Upon her death, Peter was named as trustee of the Trust, with Michael as a successor trustee. Respondents maintained a copy of the will and trust.

18. Both Respondents had an attorney-client relationship with Delia Crosoli, the Estate of Louis Crosoli and the Estate of Delia Crosoli. As such, Respondents owed Delia Crosoli, the Estate of Louis Crosoli, the Estate of Delia Crosoli and their beneficiaries, fiduciary duties, including the obligation to act at all times with the highest degree of honesty, fidelity, loyalty and good faith, to avoid self-dealing, to avoid placing themselves in a position where their personal interests would conflict with the interests of their clients and to avoid dealing with the Crosolis' property for their own unlawful benefit or unjust enrichment or for that of their own friends or family members. Further, Respondents, as trustee and successor trustee of Delia's Trust, had a duty of loyalty and impartiality to the Trust beneficiaries, a duty to use reasonable care, prudence and skill in the management of Trust assets, a duty not to endanger the Trust property and a duty to pursue an investment strategy that considered both the reasonable production of income and the safety of capital.

Count I - as to Michael Caminiti
(Conflict of Interest - Loan to Michael Caminiti)

19. On or about June 20, 1996, Respondent Michael, and his wife Sheila entered into an agreement with Delia in which she agreed to loan them $100,000 to purchase a home in River Forest, Illinois. As security for the loan, Respondent Michael and Sheila granted Delia, as trustee of the Delia M. Crosoli Revocable Living Trust of 1994 a mortgage on their current home, located at 1922 North New England in Chicago, Illinois.

20. In order to loan Respondent Michael and Sheila $100,000, Delia withdrew $75,000 worth of cash out of the Trust's investment account and took out a $25,000 line of credit from the same investment account.

21. At no time did either Respondent disclose to Delia the conflict of interest inherent in accepting and approving a loan at the same time that they were representing Delia as her attorneys for tax and estate matters, nor did either Respondent ever advise Delia to seek independent counsel relating to the loan described in Paragraph Eighteen above.

22. By reason of the conduct set forth above, Respondent Michael has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. overreaching;

  2. breach of fiduciary duty;

  3. entering into a business relationship with a client where the lawyer and client have conflicting interests therein and the client expects the lawyer to exercise the lawyer's independent professional judgment for the protection of the client in violation of Rule 1.8(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  4. conduct 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 bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

COUNT II - as to both Respondents
(Conflict of Interest - Bequests to Children)

23. The Administrator realleges Count I, above.

24. The Delia M. Crosoli Revocable Living Trust of 1994 stated that $25,000 would be given to Joseph J. Caminiti, and $25,000 to Jeana E. Caminiti.

25. Joseph J. Caminiti and Jeana E. Caminiti are Respondent, Michael's children.

26. The Delia M. Crosoli Revocable Living Trust of 1994 stated that $25,000 would be given to Vincent J. Caminiti, and $25,000 to Veronica J. Caminiti.

27. Vincent J. Caminiti and Veronica J. Caminiti are Respondent, Peter's children.

28. On July 15, 1997, Delia died.

29. On September 25, 1997, Respondents disbursed four $25,000 checks from the account of the Delia M. Crosoli Revocable Living Trust of 1994 to their wives, Sheila and Theresa, as custodians for their respective children, pursuant to the bequests described in Paragraphs Twenty-four and Twenty-six, above.

30. By reason of the conduct set forth above, Respondent Peter has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. overreaching;

  2. breach of fiduciary duty;

  3. representing a client when the representation of that client may be materially limited by his own interests, in violation of Rule 1.7(b);

  4. preparing an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer a substantial gift from the client, in violation of Rule 1.8(c);

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

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

31. By reason of the conduct set forth above, Respondent Michael has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. overreaching;

  2. breach of fiduciary duty;

  3. conduct 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 bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

COUNT III - as to both Respondents
(Neglect, Incompetence and Breach of Fiduciary Duty - Crosoli Probate Matters)

32. The Administrator realleges Counts I and II, above.

33. At the time of Delia's death, the Delia M. Crosoli Revocable Living Trust of 1994 provided for various specific cash bequests to be made to certain named beneficiaries including certain relatives and friends, as well as the individuals named in Paragraphs Twenty-three through Thirty, above. The Delia M. Crosoli Revocable Living Trust of 1994 also provided that upon Delia's death the residuary of the trust would be gifted to four charitable causes, with each to receive a 25% share of the residuary. Those charitable causes included: finding a cure for infantile hydrocephalus, the United States Marines, training and teaching of medical students in the state of Illinois and the Archdiocese of Chicago.

34. At all times alleged, the Probate Act of 1975, at 755 ILCS 5/6-1, required that immediately upon the death of a testator any person who has the testator's will in his possession shall file it with the clerk of the court.

35. At no time prior to December 31, 1997 did Respondents file a copy of Delia's will with the clerk of the court.

36. At all times alleged, the Probate Act of 1975, at 755 ILCS 5/6-3, stated, "[w]ithin 30 days after a person acquires knowledge that he is named as executor of the will of a deceased person, he shall either institute a proceeding to have the will admitted to probate in the court of the proper county or declare his refusal to act as executor."

37. At no time within 30 days of Delia's passing, did Respondent Peter, as executor of Delia's will, institute proceedings to have the will admitted to probate, nor did he declare his refusal to act as executor.

38. At no time prior to December 23, 2005, did Respondents initiate probate proceedings on behalf of Delia's estate. On or about December 23, 2005, Respondents initiated probate proceedings with respect to Delia's estate. The matter was entitled, In the Matter of the Estate of Delia M. Crosoli, case number 05 P 9132 in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

39. On or before December 23, 2005, Respondents determined that eleven securities, which should have been included in Delia's estate, could not be included in Delia's estate because the assets were not properly re-titled into Delia's name after Louis' passing in 1994. Respondents, as the only attorneys responsible for Louis' estate and for Delia's subsequent legal and financial matters, knew or should have known that Louis' estate was not properly concluded because these assets were not properly re-titled.

40. In or about December 2005 Respondents petitioned the court to re-open Louis' estate, case number 94 P 3539, to clear title to the eleven securities that had remained in Louis' name following Louis' death in 1994.

41. As of the date a complaint was voted in this matter, Delia's estate, case number 05 P 9132 remained open and several of the residual beneficiaries still had not received the full amount bequested to them via Delia's will and trust.

42. Prior to her death in 1997, Delia lived in an apartment located at 7848 West 26th Street, North Riverside, Illinois ("North Riverside Property"). At the time of her death, the rent on the North Riverside Property was $630 a month.

43. At no time before December 2005 did Respondents terminate the rental agreement and vacate the premises on the North Riverside Property.

44. Respondents continued to direct payments from Delia's estate of $630 per month for rent on the purportedly unoccupied North Riverside Property through February 2003.

45. In February 2003, the rent on the North Riverside Property was increased to $700 per month. Starting in February 2003, through December 2005, Respondents continued to direct payments from Delia's estate of $700 per month for rent on the purportedly unoccupied North Riverside Property.

46. From 1997 through 2005, Respondents did not inventory and liquidate the personal property belonging to Delia from the North Riverside Property.

47. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondents have engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. breach of fiduciary duty as executor;

  2. failing to provide competent representation in violation of Rule 1.1(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

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

  4. failing to make reasonable efforts to expedite a legal matter consistent with the interests of the client in violation of Rule 3.2 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  5. 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

  6. engaging in 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 respectfully 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.

  Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:   Melissa A. Smart