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

In the Matter of:

LANRE O. AMU,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No.  6230736.

 

Commission No.   2011PR00106

FILED -  December 7, 2011

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Robert J. Verrando, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b) complains of Respondent Lanre O. Amu, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on May 9, 1996, 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

COUNT I
(Making false statements about the integrity of a judge)

1. In February 2002, while driving a truck for Safeway, Inc. ("Safeway"), Dewayne Allen ("Allen") struck pedestrian Sara Balakar ("Balakar") on a Chicago street. Balakar sustained injuries as a result of the incident.

2. In December 2003, Balakar retained the law firm of Romanucci & Blandin and attorney James M. Urtis ("Urtis"), to represent her to recover damages for her injuries from Safeway and Allen.

3. In 2004, Balakar became dissatisfied with the progress of her claim against Safeway and Allen, and she discharged Urtis and Romanucci & Blandin.

4. In August 2004, Respondent agreed to represent Balakar with regard to her claims against Safeway and Allen. At that time, Respondent advised Balakar to also pursue a legal malpractice claim against Urtis and Romanucci & Blandin.

5. Beginning in 2005, Respondent filed three successive legal malpractice suits against Urtis and Romanucci & Blandin in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Respondent voluntarily dismissed each of the first two suits after judicial actions with which he disagreed, including a February 17, 2009 order of the Hon. Thomas Chiola, a judge of the Circuit Court, allowing a defense motion for partial summary judgment in Respondent's second suit.

6. In May 2009, the Hon. Diane Larsen, a judge of the Circuit Court, entered an order allowing a defense motion to dismiss Respondent's third and final suit, which bore docket number 2009L001874.

7. On May 7, 2009, Respondent filed a notice of appeal of the order dismissing case number 2009L001874. The clerk of the Appellate Court received the matter, docketed it, and assigned it appeal number 1-10-0581.

8. On October 26, 2010, Respondent filed a 34-page appellant's reply brief in appeal number 1-10-0581.

9. Respondent began his October 26, 2010 reply brief in appeal number 1-10-0581 with the statement,

"This is about how Judge Thomas R. Chiola fixed a case for the defendants Antonio Romanucci and Stephen J. Blandin and their law firm at the Daley Center on February 17, 2009. The case fixing started in Judge Chiola's chambers under the guise of a ‘settlement conference' he convened on his own motion."

10. Respondent also stated in his reply brief that Judge Chiola's conduct "is simply one example of the corruption by some judges at the Daley Center circuit court" and accused Judge Chiola of participating in a fraudulent scheme against Balakar.

11. Respondent stated in another part of his reply brief that, after the February 17, 2009, partial summary judgment ruling, "Judge Chiola went ‘AWOL' into hiding once he realized that plaintiff's attorney was confronting him for his role in the fraud."

12. On November 22, 2010, the Appellate Court entered an order in appeal number 1-10-0581 striking Respondent's October 26, 2010 reply brief, because it exceeded the 20-page limit set forth in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 341(b)(1).

13. On December 3, 2010, Respondent filed a 19-page "Revised Reply Brief" in appeal number 1-10-0581, which again included the statements described in paragraphs nine through 11, above, and which additionally contained Respondent's statement that "[t]here was corruption and case fixing in the chambers of Judge Chiola on February 17, 2009."

14. At the time he filed the briefs described above, Respondent had no reasonable basis for the statements that Judge Chiola was corrupt or had "fixed" Balakar's case.

15. Respondent's statements in his briefs described above were made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.

16. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. making a statement of material fact or law to a tribunal which the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is false in violation of Rule 3.3(a)(1) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. making a statement the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge in violation of Rule 8.2(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

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

  4. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  5. 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.

COUNT II
(Making false statements about the integrity of a judge)

17. In February 2007, Steve Dei ("Dei") fell and sustained injuries at the Tumara Food Mart ("Tumara"), a Chicago gasoline station and market.

18. In March 2007, Respondent agreed to represent Dei to seek damages from Tumara for the injuries Dei sustained when he fell in February 2007.

19. In June 2007, Respondent filed suit on Dei's behalf against Tumara in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The clerk of the court received the complaint, docketed it under the caption, Steve Dei v. Tumara Food Mart, Inc., and assigned it case number 2007L005875.

20. In June 2007, at Respondent's direction, officers of the Sheriff of Cook County served a copy of the complaint in case number 2007L005875 upon Ahmed Silatt, an employee of Tumara, who was not an officer of the company. Respondent did not serve a copy of the complaint upon an officer of Tumara or upon Tumara's registered corporate agent.

21. As of November 15, 2007, Tumara had filed no answer or appearance in case number 2007L005875. On that date, the Hon. John A. Ward, a Judge of the Circuit Court, entered an order of default in Dei's favor.

22. On January 8, 2008, after a hearing, the Hon. Lynn M. Egan, a Judge of the Circuit Court, entered judgment in Dei's favor in case number 2007L005875 in the amount of $273,230.02.

23. In July 2008, Respondent served a citation to discover assets upon Tumara in case number 2007L005875.

24. In August 2008, attorneys for Tumara filed and served upon Respondent an appearance and a petition to vacate the January 8, 2009 default judgment in case number 2007L005875, on the grounds that Respondent had not obtained valid service of his June 2007 complaint upon Tumara. Respondent received a copy of the petition shortly after it was filed.

25. Between August 2008 and June 2009, Respondent engaged in discovery in case number 2007L005875 regarding issues related to the service of the complaint, and the parties filed pleadings regarding Tumara's petition to vacate the default judgment.

On June 19, 2009, Judge Egan entered an order vacating the January 2008 judgment in case number 2007L005875.

27. On June 26, 2009, Respondent filed a notice of appeal of Judge Egan's June 19, 2009 order in case number 2007L005875. In July 2009, the Appellate Court received the appeal, docketed it and assigned it appeal number 09 L 1749.

28. On March 4, 2011, Respondent posted a 23-page document entitled "An Open letter to the Illinois Appellate Court" on a website he maintained at the internet address, "www.lanreamu.com."

29. Respondent's web site was open to the public and was not password-protected. Respondent knew or should have known that the contents of his web site were continuously available to anyone with access to the internet.

30. In Respondent's internet posting, described in paragraph 28 and 29, above, he described Dei's case and appeal number 09 L 1749 and made the following statements:

"Knowing that the case was pending before Judge Lynn M. Egan, American Family Insurance Company hired Judge Lynn M. Egan's brother Matthew J. Egan's law firm "Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered, to prosecute the petition to vacate default judgment before Judge Lynn M. Egan. During the months of legal wrangling before Judge Lynn Egan, plaintiff and his lawyer (both African Immigrants) were intentionally kept in the dark about this link and collusion between Judge Lynn M. Egan and the defense." (p. 2)

"The flawed reasoning and decision of Judge Lynn Egan in favor of American Family Insurance Company's interest was immediately appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court in expectation that the Appellate Court will see through the nonsense and correct the situation. Instead of the Illinois Appellate Court doing the right thing, the Appellate Court simply rubber stamped and affirmed the flawed ruling of Judge Egan in favor of American Family Insurance's interest. Even when the Appellate Court was made aware of the relationship between Judge Lynn M. Egan and the defense law firm, the Appellate Court did nothing. The matter was simply swept under the rug." (p. 2)

"Judge Egan abused not only the fact finding process in this case, she also ignored the law she was sworn to uphold concerning service of process in Illinois, and furthermore she engaged in ethical violations. Instead of correcting and/or reporting Judge Egan's misdeeds, the appellate court in fact came to her aid by affirming her flawed ruling. The system of appellate review utterly failed to correct this misdeed." (p. 10)

"Reform should be instituted that prevents justices from writing opinions whenever they are reasonably aware that corruption has infiltrated the fact finding process of the legal proceedings presented to them. Such reform will prevent the two flawed opinions written by Appellate Court Justices Quinn, Neville and Steel in this case. The two appellate court opinions one of which will now be published in the Illinois Case Reporter law books unless recalled amount to a display of intellectual dishonesty. It is wrong for law student to be reading opinions in the future and not be aware that its not real, and that the corruption behind the opinion has been white washed" (p. 10)

"The corruption uncovered here happens to be one of a few that can be proved. The tip of the ice berg so to speak." (p. 11)

"A system that allows Judge Lynn M. Egan an Irish American to disposess Steve Dei an African American in courtroom 1904 at the Daley Center in this age just as Dred Scott was dispossessed in 1857 is fundamentally flawed and is provocative. The system gives a person from Ireland because of race the power and authority to dispossess a person from Ghana, Africa in a courtroom in the United States." (p. 13)

31. At the time Respondent disseminated the statements described above, he had no reasonable basis for them.

32. Respondent's statements described above were made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.

33. In July 2011, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Judge Egan's June 19, 2009 order vacating the default. On October 24, 2011, Respondent filed a petition for writ of certiorari on Dei's behalf in the Supreme Court of the United States.

34. In his petition for writ of certiorari, described in paragraph 33, above, Respondent repeated his statements that Judge Egan had made rulings in case number 2007L005875 on the basis of a concealed affinity with defense counsel and bias against Respondent and Dei. Respondent also stated that Judge Egan "is virtually above the law."

  1. At the time Respondent made the statements described above, he had no reasonable basis for them.

  2. Respondent's statements described above were made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.

  3. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  4. making a statement of material fact or law to a tribunal which the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is false in violation of Rule 3.3(a)(1) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  5. making a statement the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge in violation of Rule 8.2(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

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

  7. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  8. 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.

COUNT III
(Making false statements about the integrity of a judge)

38. In 2002 and 2003, Tunbi Majekodunmi ("Majekodunmi") sought treatment for digestive problems from Near South Health Center in Chicago ("NSHC"). In May 2004, NSHC physicians diagnosed Majekodunmi with cancer and began to treat the disease.

39. In November 2004, Respondent agreed to represent Majekodunmi to seek damages from NSHC and Cook County for its alleged failure to timely diagnose Majekodunmi's cancer.

40. In December 29, 2004, Respondent filed suit on Majekodunmi's behalf against NSHC and Cook County. The clerk of the court received the matter, docketed it, and assigned it case number 04 L 14501.

41. Between January 2005 and August 2009, the parties to case number 04 L 14501 engaged in discovery, and the matter proceeded toward trial. On May 11, 2005, Majekodunmi died, and the Court appointed Jibike Ogunlana as special administrator of Majekodunmi's estate and named him as plaintiff in the matter.

42. On May 26, 2009, Respondent filed and served upon the defendants in case number 04 L 14501 a request for admission pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 216, in which Respondent requested that NSHC admit more than 1,000 individual facts.

43. During a June 5, 2009, hearing before the Hon. Irwin J. Solganick, a judge of the Circuit Court, in case number 04 L 14501, in Respondent's presence, attorneys for the defendants moved to strike Respondent's May 26, 2009 requests for admission as cumulative and unduly burdensome.

44. On June 5, 2009, Judge Solganick entered an order in case number 04 L 14501 granting the defendants' motion to strike Respondent's May 26, 2009 request for admission.

45. On August 27, 2009, after a trial which continued for several weeks, a jury rendered a verdict in favor of the defendants in case number 04 L 14501. On September 25, 2009, Respondent filed a motion for a new trial.

46. June 30, 2010, the Hon. Edward Washington, a judge of the Circuit Court, entered an order in case number 04 L 14501 denying Respondent's post trial motion.

47. On July 30, 2010, Respondent filed a notice of appeal of the judgment in case number 04 L 14501. The clerk of the appellate court received the appeal, docketed it, and assigned it appeal number No. 1-10-2222.

48. As of December 2, 2010, Respondent had taken no action toward prosecution of appeal number 1-10-2222. On that date, defendant Cook County filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for want of prosecution. Respondent received a copy of the motion shortly after it was sent.

49. On December 9, 2010, Respondent filed a response to the December 2, 2010 motion to dismiss appeal number 1-10-2222, and sent a copy to Cook County's attorneys.

50. In his December 9, 2010 pleading, Respondent made the following statements with regard to Judge Solganick's June 5, 2009 order:

"Judge Irwin J. Solganick engaged in corrupt ruling that undermined this case in favor of the defense . . ." (p. 4 of Response)

"Judge Solganick struck all of plaintiff's requests to admit without reading them. . . . I now allege that it was a corrupt ruling." (p. 5)

"Judge Solganick . . . was ignorant of the medical issue in the medical malpractice case; he did not read the requests to admit before he struck them in the entirety." (p. 5)

"I did find out that Judge Solganick used to be a law partner with Ed Vrdolyak. . . Ed Vrdolyak was recently sentenced to prison for sophisticated fraud, kickbacks and/or related activity. Generally, birds of the same feather flock together." (p. 5-6)

"All Judge Solganick saw before him was a black lawyer (one of only two black lawyers in courtroom 2005 at the time) going against several insurance defense lawyers, in a sea of white lawyers in courtroom 2005." (p. 6)

"This is a corrupt use of judicial power under the guise of judicial discretion. It was like nothing I said really mattered to Judge Solganick. I was simply being disarmed and railroaded to a trial." (p. 7)

"Plaintiff is however entitled to a fair and an impartial trial. Corruption within the system prevented that from happening." (p. 7)

51. In his December 9, 2010 pleading, Respondent requested that the Appellate Court conduct "an authentic independent investigation" of the outcome of case number 04 L 14501, and that "an African Immigrant be one of the team of investigators that see the evidence to give the exercise authenticity so it's not just another white wash." (p. 8).

52. On December 9, 2010, Respondent filed a pleading in appeal number 1-10-2222 entitled, "Motion for an Authentic Independent Investigation to Allegations of Corruption." In his motion, Respondent repeated the statements described in paragraph 50 and 51, above.

53. On December 11, 2010, Respondent mailed a copy of his December 9, 2010 pleadings in appeal number 1-10-2222 to the Hon. Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Judge Evans received the letter and attachments shortly after they were sent, and referred the matter to the Hon. William D. Maddux, Presiding Judge of the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

54. On January 12, 2011, Judge Maddux sent a letter to Respondent stating that, after investigating Respondent's allegations, he had found Respondent's allegations of corruption to be unfounded. Respondent received the letter shortly after it was sent.

55. On January 18, 2011, Respondent sent a letter to Judge Evans, Judge Maddux, and eight other persons outside the court system. In his letter, Respondent repeated his allegations of corruption on the part of Judge Solganick, and stated that Judge Solganick's actions had been "designed to bury the truth," and "to keep me a black African Immigrant lawyer out of the law division or from succeeding there." The ten recipients of Respondent's letter received it shortly after it was sent.

56. At the time he filed the pleadings and sent the letters described above, Respondent had no reasonable basis for his statements of corruption on the part of Judge Solganick.

57. Respondent's statements in the pleadings and sent the letters described above were made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.

58. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. making a statement of material fact or law to a tribunal which the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is false in violation of Rule 3.3(a)(1) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. making a statement the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge in violation of Rule 8.2(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

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

  4. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  5. 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.

COUNT IV
(Making false statements about the integrity of a judge)

59. In May 2001, Muda J. Jaji ("Jaji") was injured in an altercation with an employee of the Exedus Lounge ("Exedus") in Chicago.

60. In 2002, Respondent agreed to represent Jaji to seek civil damages from Exedus for his injuries.

61. In May 2002, Respondent filed suit against Exedus and its employees and owners in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The clerk of the court received the complaint, docketed it, and assigned it case number 02 M1 302382.

62. Between May 2002 and September 2004, Respondent and the defendants in case number 02 M1 302382 engaged in discovery and brought motions that were heard by the Hon. Francis J. Dolan, a judge of the circuit court.

63. On September 21, 2004, after Judge Dolan made a ruling adverse to Jaji in case number 02 M1 302382, Respondent filed a petition for substitution of Judge Dolan for cause, with a nine-page supporting affidavit, which Respondent executed.

64. In his affidavit described in paragraph 63, above, Respondent made the following statements regarding Judge Dolan:

Dolan is a very sophisticated scam artist judge. (at p.2 of Respondent's affidavit)

The defendant insurance company . . . had Judge Dolan in their corner doing their bidding. (at p.2)

My intelligence was insulted on several occasions with Judge Dolan's biased questions. (at p. 2)

Judge Dolan placed himself above the law in his courtroom and he became the law himself. (at p. 2)

Judge Dolan is an unfair and biased judge. (at p.3)

Judge Dolan is blinded by prejudice. (at p. 3)

Judge Dolan has no regard for honesty in briefing before him. He invites dishonesty in briefing so as to use the dishonesty as his vehicle to reach biased rulings. He has no regard for procedural due process he will take actions to reach his end even when those actions are not authorized by any law he must abide with as a judge. (at p. 3)

Judge Dolan was prejudiced. (at p. 5)

[Judge Dolan] had no sense of fairness and he was in fact biased towards plaintiff and plaintiff's counsel and in favor of defendant's insurance attorneys. (at p. 6)

Because he was unfairly prejudicial in this case, Judge Dolan was the henchman for the defendant insurance company. (at p. 7)

Judge Dolan had an unwritten relationship with the defendant insurance attorney. (at p. 7)

65. In his affidavit described in paragraphs 63 and 64, above, Respondent accused Judge Dolan of engaging "tyranny," "injustice" and "psychological torture" directed toward Respondent (at p. 9).

66. In September 2004, Respondent had no reasonable basis for the statements described in paragraphs 63 through 65, above.

67. Respondent's statements described in paragraphs 63 through 65, above, were made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.

68. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. making a statement of material fact or law to a tribunal which the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is false in violation of Rule 3.3(a)(1) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990);

  2. making a statement the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge in violation of Rule 8.2(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990);

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

  4. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990); and

  5. 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 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.

Robert J. Verrando
Counsel for the Administrator
130 East Randolph Drive, #1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: 312-565-2600
Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:   Robert J. Verrando