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

In the Matter of:

PAUL AMBROSE RATHBURN,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6208532.

 

Supreme Court No. M.R.

Commission No. 2011PR00042

 

 

JOINT STIPULATION OF FACTS

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Lea s. Black, and Respondent, Paul Ambrose Rathburn, by his attorney, Mary T. Robinson, stipulate that the following facts could be proven by clear and convincing evidence at a hearing:

1. Shortly after Respondent joined the Illinois Attorney General's Office in October 2007, he was assigned to a matter that had been pending since 2004 against Onan Senior Suites (a condominium building for seniors in Waukegan, Illinois) and its owners/developers. The lawsuit was based upon the fact that the condominium was not accessible to people with disabilities. Respondent was to act as second chair in the matter to assist Assistant Attorney General Erin Ipjian with the trial aspect of the case, as Ipjian had no litigation experience and Respondent had substantial litigation experience.

2. One of the three statues under which the Attorney General brought its action against Onan was the Illinois Environmental Barriers Act. That act applied to multi-story housing units, which were defined as "any building of 4 or more stories containing 10 or more dwelling units constructed to be held out for sale or lease by any person to the public."

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3. Because he had not seen the building and because the defendants had interposed as an affirmative defense that Onan Suites was not subject to the Illinois Environmental Barriers Act since it had only three stories, Respondent suggested to Ipjian that they visit the building when next in Waukegan for the March 18, 2008 court appearance in the case. It was his plan to see what they could from any place generally accessible to the public, including anything that would show whether the basement of the building was finished so as to qualify as a story under the Act.

4. On March 18, 2008, Respondent, Ipjian, and Jamie Frankic-Berkett, a Disability Specialist for the Disability Rights Bureau, visited Onan Senior Suites, to determine whether the building was accessible to people with disabilities and to determine whether the basement was finished or unfinished.

5. Upon arriving, Respondent looked around the outside of the building and found that he could not tell from publically accessible places how the basement was outfitted. With Ipjian, he approached the main door to the building and found it was locked. Without telling Ipjian his intent, he rang the bell and falsely informed the building manager who came to the door that he and Ipjian were siblings, and that they were interested in viewing the building because their grandmother was interested in moving from Wisconsin. At no time did Respondent inform the building manager that he and Ipjian were the attorneys prosecuting the case against the owners of Onan Senior Suites.

6. Based upon the information that Respondent provided to the building manager regarding his grandmother's purported desire to move to the building, the building manager showed Respondent and Ipjian areas of the building that were not accessible to the public, including the finished areas of the basement/garage, a one-bedroom unit, and a two-bedroom

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unit. At no time prior to entering the building did Respondent advise opposing counsel of his intent to view the building.

7. Respondent's false statements to the building manager to gain access to and evidence about Onan Senior Suites, were inconsistent with Rules 4.1, 4.4, 8.4(a)(4) and 8.4(a)(5) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 770.

Facts relating to mitigation and aggravation:

8. In mitigation, is 49 years old and has not been disciplined previously since his admission in 1992. His entire career has been devoted to working for public service organizations such as the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, the HIV/AIDS project, Lifespan, the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, and the Office of the State Appellate Defender. Before Respondent was licensed to practice law, he was employed as a fair housing tester, and in this matter, he resorted to testing methods which he had used in that capacity. He has acknowledged that his role as counsel in the case made those methods improper, and regrets his failure to recognize that at the time he acted.

9. In aggravation, Respondent, as an assistant Attorney General, was a public advocate whose duties were to promote and protect the rights of people in Illinois. However, in prosecuting a case, he directly lied to a person at the site at issue in the lawsuit in order to gain

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information to assist him in prosecuting his case. Based on Respondent's work history, he should have known that gaining evidence by means of deception was improper.

 

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  Lea S. Black
Counsel for the Administrator
130 East Randolph Street, #1500
Chicago, IL  60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600

Respectfully submitted,

Paul Ambrose Rathburn
Attorney-Respondent


By: Mary T. Robinson
RobinsonNiro, LLC
321 N. Clark Street, 5th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654-4714
Telephone (312) 445-6332

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

In the Matter of:

PAUL AMBROSE RATHBURN,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6208532.

 

Supreme Court No. M.R.

Commission No. 2011PR00042

 

REPRIMAND

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by the Hearing Board members whose names are affixed hereto, administers this reprimand to Paul Ambrose Rathburn:

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

1. Respondent, Paul Ambrose Rathburn, was admitted to practice in Illinois on January 7, 1992, and has never previously been disciplined.

2. On May 10, 2010, the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint against Respondent, charging him with making false statements to gain access to and obtain evidence regarding a building that was the subject of pending litigation.

3. The Administrator and Respondent have entered into a stipulation concerning the facts of this case. The Panel adopts the stipulation, and a copy of the stipulation is attached to this reprimand.

4. The Panel agrees with the Administrator and with Respondent that based, upon the uncontested facts described in the stipulation, a reprimand is the appropriate discipline herein.

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5. The Panel has considered mitigating factors such as Respondent's expression of regret about his conduct, his cooperation during the pendency of these charges before the Hearing Board, and his history of public interest work.

6. The purpose of disciplinary proceedings is to determine whether professional misconduct occurred and what sanction should be imposed. Sanctions are imposed not to punish the attorney, but to protect the public, maintain the integrity and reputation of the Bar, protect courts and the administration of justice from reproach, and deter the respondent herein and other attorneys from misconduct. See, e.g., In re Levin, 101 Ill.2d 535, 463 N.E.2d 715 (1984); In re Lamberis, 93 Ill.2d 222, 443 N.E.2d 549 (1982).

7. In view of the matters set forth above, and because there is no evidence of a dishonest motive, the Panel has determined that the appropriate sanction in the instant case is a reprimand.

8. The result in this matter is consistent with the outcome of other cases involving comparable misconduct, including In re Berkel, 97 SH 115 (reprimand administered by the Hearing Board on March 6, 1998), and In re Richards, 2010PT00095 (reprimand administered by the Hearing Board on January 10, 2011).

REPRIMAND

To: Paul Ambrose Rathburn:

1. You are being reprimanded for making false statements about who you were and why you wanted to view Onan Senior Suites in order to obtain evidence for pending litigation. Your conduct brought the legal profession into disrepute. Had you been honest and informed the building manager of your true purpose for wanting to see the building, and your role with respect

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to the litigation that was pending against the developers of Onan Senior Suites, these disciplinary proceedings might have been avoided.

2. Dishonesty and obtaining evidence in a manner that violates the rights of a person undermine the public's confidence in the legal profession. Attorneys have an obligation to avoid all conduct which could bring the legal profession into disrepute.

3. Your conduct as described in this Reprimand and in the Stipulation was improper. You have admittedly engaged in conduct inconsistent with Rules 4.1, 4.4, 8.4(a)(4) and 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 770. You are therefore reprimanded not to repeat the conduct which has resulted in the imposition of discipline.

4. You are further advised that while this reprimand is not formally presented to the Supreme Court, it is not to be taken lightly. This reprimand is a matter of public record and is on file with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and may be admitted into evidence in the event that there are disciplinary proceedings against you in the future.

John A. Guzzardo, Chair with Hearing Panel members

Roma J. Stewart and Bernard Judge, concurring

Date entered: October 19, 2011