BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
In the Matter of:
Commission No. 08 CH 103
FILED - September 3, 2008
Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Allison L. Wood, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent, Frank Eugene Jeffers III, who was licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois on November 1, 1977, 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:
Simultaneous representation of directly adverse parties
to real estate transaction
1. On or about March 9, 2006, Joseph and Susan Baldus Strauss (the "Strausses") agreed to purchase from Beth Watkins ("Watkins") a single family residence located at 2S420 Madison Street, Wheaton, Illinois (the "Property"). The agreed purchase price was $275,000.
2. On or about March 11, 2006, the Strausses contacted Respondent and asked him to represent them in the purchase of the Property. Respondent agreed to represent the Strausses for a flat fee of $400 that would be paid at closing. Respondent prepared a sales contract on behalf of the Strausses, gave it to the Strausses, and directed them to forward it to Watkins.
3. On or about March 17, 2006, Watkins contacted Respondent and asked him to represent her in the sale of the Property. Respondent advised Watkins that he had already agreed to represent the Strausses and that it was he who had prepared the sales contract she had received from the Strausses. Respondent also told Watkins that he would be willing to represent her at a reduced rate of $175, to be paid at closing.
4. The closing for the Property was to take place on April 27, 2006 at the offices of First American Title Insurance Company, in Warrenville, Illinois. On or about April 25, 2006, Watkins told Respondent that she would not be able to be present at the closing. Respondent agreed to prepare a power of attorney for Watkins, which would allow Respondent to execute closing documents on behalf of Watkins at the closing.
5. On April 27, 2006, the date of the closing, Respondent was advised by the Strausses, that the Strausses and Watkins had agreed that the Strausses would pay Watkins $900 at the closing for the refrigerator, the washer, the dryer, the microwave, and the stove.
6. On April 27, 2006, the date of closing, Respondent was advised by the Strausses, that Watkins had agreed to remove certain items from the Property, including a freezer. Respondent was also advised by the Strausses that Watkins had agreed that Respondent would hold the $900 check relative to the items listed in paragraph 5 above, until the Strausses advised Respondent that the freezer had been removed.
7. At no time on April 27, 2006, was Respondent advised by Watkins that she had agreed to allow Respondent to hold the $900 check until the Strausses advised Respondent that the freezer had been removed. At no time on April 27, 2006, was Respondent advised by Watkins that she had agreed to remove the freezer.
8. On April 27, 2008, Respondent received $400 in legal fees from the Strausses' funds at closing and $175 in legal fees from Watkins' funds at closing. Respondent, who is an issuing agent for the First American Insurance Company, also received $885.50 from the First American Insurance Company. Respondent disclosed his agency relationship with First American Insurance Company to both the Strausses and to Watkins.
9. At no time between March 9, 2006 and April 27, 2006, did Respondent (a) advise either the Strausses or Watkins that their interests could be adverse; (b) advise either the Strausses or Watkins that his representation of one could be limited by his responsibilities to the other; or (c) obtain a waiver of the potential conflict of interest between the Strausses and Watkins.
10. At no time between March 9, 2006 and April 27, 2006, did Respondent advise Watkins that she needed to obtain independent counsel relative to the sale of the Property.
11. On April 28, 2006, Watkins went to Respondent's office to pick up the $900 check. Respondent's secretary, at Respondent's direction, advised Watkins that Respondent was withholding the $900 check until Watkins removed the freezer from the Property.
12. A few days after April 28, 2006, Respondent advised Watkins that he would take care of the removal of the freezer.
13. At no time during the period from April 28, 2006 through May 16, 2006, did Respondent remove the freezer, contact the Strausses about the status of the freezer, or tender the $900 check to Watkins. On or about May 16, 2006, Respondent learned that the Strausses placed a stop payment on the $900 check he was holding for the benefit of Watkins.
14. As of June 18, 2008, Respondent has not removed the freezer or taken steps such that Watkins could recover her $900.
15. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:
failing to explain a matter to a client to the extent necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation in violation of Rule 1.4(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;
representing a client where the representation of the client is directly adverse to another client in violation of Rule 1.7(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;
representing a client where the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client in violation of Rule 1.7(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and
conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or 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.
Allison L. Wood