Filed April 10, 2014
In re Corey Michael Novick
Commission No. 2012PR00176
Synopsis of Hearing Board Report and Recommendation
The Administrator charged Respondent with providing false information on a State of Illinois employment application. The Administrator further alleged that Respondent requested his father provide a letter to a State agency that contained false statements regarding Respondent's employment and salary history.
The Panel found the Administrator proved Respondent engaged in the charged misconduct. In addition, the Panel found Respondent failed to register and was removed from the Master Roll on two separate occasions. It recommended a sixty-day suspension.
BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
In the Matter of:
COREY MICHAEL NOVICK,
Commission No. 2012PR00176
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE HEARING BOARD
The hearing in this matter was held on October 1, 2013, and November 20, 2013, at the Chicago offices of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ("ARDC"), before a Panel of the Hearing Board consisting of William E. Hornsby, Jr., Chair, Andrea D. Flynn, and Audrey Hauser. Gina M. Abbatemarco appeared on behalf of the Administrator. Respondent appeared and was represented by Mitchell B. Katten and Daniel Konicek.
The Administrator filed a one-count Complaint against Respondent on December 27, 2012, alleging he provided false information on a State of Illinois employment application. The Complaint further alleges that Respondent requested his father provide a letter to a State agency that contained false statements regarding Respondent's employment and salary history.1
Respondent's Amended Answer admitted some factual allegations, denied others, and denied all charges of misconduct.
The Administrator alleged Respondent: 1) induced his father, Ivan Novick, to engage in conduct, or gave assistance to Mr. Novick, when he knew that conduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct; 2) engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rules 8.4(a)(2) and 8.4(a)(4) of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.2
The Administrator called Respondent as an adverse and rebuttal witness and presented the testimony of Joni Stahlman, Christina Griffin, Robin Staggers, Dixie Lee Peterson, and Beth Solomon. Administrator's Exhibits 1-12 and 14-17 were received in evidence. (Tr. 42-43, 48-49, 81, 123, 231, 234, 238-239, 246, 300, 431, 446). Respondent testified on his own behalf and presented the testimony of Joni Stahlman, Christina Griffin, Ivan Novick, James DiMatteo, Charles Powell, Courtnay O'Connell, Lawrence Alberg, and Rachel Diamond.3 Respondent's Exhibits 1, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, and 4-7 were received in evidence. (Tr. 133, 191, 485-489).
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
In attorney disciplinary proceedings, the Administrator has the burden of proving the charges of misconduct by clear and convincing evidence. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 753(c) (6); See also, In re Ingersoll, 186 Ill. 2d 163, 710 N.E.2d 390 (1999). Clear and convincing evidence constitutes a high level of certainty, which is greater than a preponderance of the evidence, but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. See, e.g., People v. Williams, 143 Ill. 2d 477, 577 N.E.2d 762 (1991). It is the responsibility of the Hearing Panel to determine the credibility of the witnesses, weigh conflicting testimony, draw reasonable inferences and make
factual findings based upon all the evidence. In re Timpone, 157 Ill. 2d 178, 623 N.E.2d 300, 308 (1993).
Before we undertake our findings, the Chair must address Novick's Motion for Directed Verdict at the Close of All the Evidence.4 This motion is directed to the charge pursuant to Rule 8.4(a)(2).
In ruling on a motion for directed finding pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-110, the Chair, must consider all of the evidence and determine whether the Administrator has presented a prima facie case, that is at least some evidence on every essential element. If a prima facie case has not been presented, a directed finding is warranted. If a prima facie case has been presented, then the Chair is to consider "the general weight and quality of the evidence before it, including evidence favorable to the defendant," "pass on the credibility of the witnesses," "draw reasonable inferences from the testimony," apply the "standard of proof required for the underlying case," and determine if the evidence is sufficient "to satisfy the required burden of proof." Kokinis v. Kotrich, 81 Ill. 2d 151, 154-55, 407 N.E.2d 43 (1980); Estate of Price v. Universal, 322 Ill. App. 3d 514, 517, 750 N.E.2d 739 (1st Dist. 2001); Orbeta v. Gomez, 315 Ill. App. 3d 687, 689-90, 733 N.E.2d 1287 (2nd Dist. 2000). For the reasons contained in section II below, the Chair denies this motion.
I. Respondent is charged with engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4).
A. Evidence Considered
Respondent was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1994 and is currently a sole practitioner. (Tr. 31). Respondent worked at D'Ancona & Pflaum for about one year, but left because he was not meeting expectations. (Tr. 31-32). From July 1998 to June 1999,
Respondent worked at Gordon and Glickson. Although he worked many hours, he was not meeting his billing requirement. (Tr. 31-32, 86-87). Respondent was later employed by the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County ("Clerk's Office") at a salary of $65,000. He agreed to leave the Clerk's Office in 2002 after one year of employment. (Tr. 32-33; Adm. Ex. 1).
After leaving the Clerk's Office, Respondent had no job and no income from any source. He then began volunteering on Rod Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign. (Tr. 33). Between September 2002 and March 2003, Respondent performed volunteer work for Resolute Consulting. Resolute did campaign work for both the Blagojevich campaign and Mayor Daley's re-election campaign. (Tr. 34). At that time, Respondent was volunteering approximately 70 hours per week. (Tr. 34). In addition, from December 2002 to March 2003, Respondent was volunteering in the Governor's transition office. (Tr. 34-38). At around the same time, he also volunteered with Victor Roberson and Robin Staggers in the Office of the Governor. (Tr. 37-39).
It was Respondent's understanding that Mr. Roberson and Ms. Staggers were helping those individuals who worked on the gubernatorial campaign obtain State employment. (Tr. 99). During conversations with Ms. Staggers and Mr. Roberson, Respondent stated he was seeking a salary of $90,000-$100,000. (Tr. 40-41; Adm. Ex. 7). On March 31, 2003, Respondent sent an e-mail to Ms. Staggers seeking her assistance in finding employment. (Tr. 39-40; Adm. Ex. 4).
In April 2003, Respondent was asked to complete an Illinois Department of Central Management Services Examining/Employment Application ("CMS 100"). (Tr. 41-42; Adm. Ex. 1). A CMS 100 is an employment application in which the applicant provides prior work experience, information regarding any licenses held, and relevant education. (Tr. 217).
Respondent completed an initial CMS 100 form and gave it to Ms. Staggers. Respondent also submitted his resume. (Tr. 42; Adm. Ex. 9).
According to Respondent, Ms. Staggers advised he should remove references to his work in the Governor's Office. (Tr. 106-107, 143-144). In addition, Ms. Staggers suggested that Respondent include his work at Codevco Limited Partnership ("Codevco"). Respondent did as she suggested and submitted another CMS 100 form on April 27, 2003. Respondent signed the form certifying his answers were true and correct. (Tr. 43, 108-109; Adm. Ex. 1). Respondent testified he made the changes quickly and without thinking, because he was anxious to get a job and get on the payroll. (Tr. 114).
In the April 27 CMS 100, Respondent stated he was legal counsel for Codevco from March 2003 to the "present," worked 40 hours per week, and received $800 per week. He described his work as advising on legal matters and principally working on information technology contracts. (Adm. Ex. 1). Similar statements were contained in Respondent's resume. However, Respondent admitted these statements were false. He was never an attorney for Codevco, never received a salary from Codevco, did not work 40 hours per week for Codevco, and was never an employee of Codevco. (Tr. 43-44). Respondent further admitted he knew these statements were false at the time he completed the CMS 100. (Tr. 44-45).
Respondent then interviewed with the Illinois Department of Employment Security ("IDES") and the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"). (Tr. 45-46, 145-146). During his interview with DCFS, Respondent requested a $90,000 salary. (Tr. 46). In May 2003, Respondent accepted a contract position with DCFS as a legal advisor for the Office of Employee Services at a rate of $347.83 per day for 230 work days, or a total of $80,000.90. (Tr.
46-48, 139-140, 216; Adm. Exs. 10, 12; Resp. Exs. 1). He worked in this position for approximately 6 weeks. (Tr. 50).
On July 1, 2003, Respondent received a four-year term position as an attorney with DCFS at a salary of $85,000. (Tr. 51, 55). That position required him to be a lawyer. (Tr. 270). At that time, Respondent was aware of the Governor's Office's policy that new employees to State government could not receive 10% more than their most recent salary. (Tr. 52-53). However, he also was aware that exceptions could be made to this policy. (Tr. 53-54).
Shortly thereafter, DCFS asked for verification of Respondent's employment and salary at Codevco. (Tr. 57). Respondent testified he was upset by this request, but did not admit to anyone at DCFS that he had not served as legal counsel to Codevco and that he was not paid a salary by Codevco. (Tr. 59). Instead, he asked his father, who worked at Codevco, to provide a letter verifying his employment. (Tr. 59; Adm. Ex. 2). Respondent testified he does not recall the specifics of that conversation with his father. (Tr. 59-60). However, he admitted he knew that by providing the letter he was providing false information. (Tr. 60). After he submitted the letter from Codevco, DCFS made no further requests for Respondent's employment verification. (Tr. 60).
In October 2003, Respondent purchased a residence for $295,000 and obtained a mortgage in the amount of $236,000. Respondent does not recall what his monthly mortgage payments were then or what they are now. (Tr. 434-437).
Respondent's employment term at DCFS expired on June 30, 2007, and was not renewed despite positive performance evaluations. (Resp. Exs. 3, 4). At that point, DCFS took steps to rehire him. Respondent again did not disclose the false statements on his CMS 100. (Tr. 78-79). Respondent also tried to secure employment in other State agencies. (Adm. Ex. 4). He testified
he filled out another CMS 100 at this time, but did not include the Codevco information or any other false statements on this form. (Tr. 79-81, 128; Adm. Ex. 4).
After several months, Respondent received information that his prospects for another position in a State agency were not good. (Tr. 84-85). Respondent then filed a complaint in federal court against the Office of the Governor, DCFS, Victor Roberson, and Robin Staggers seeking to be reinstated to his position at DCFS. (Tr. 85). The matter concluded in 2012 when defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted. (Tr. 421-423; Adm. Ex. 5; Resp. Ex. 7).
Ms. Griffin currently works for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services ("CMS") and serves as Chief of Staff to the Bureau of Personnel, Deputy Director. (Tr. 213-214). Prior to working for CMS, Ms. Griffin was Personnel Manager for DCFS. (Tr. 215).
Ms. Staggers told Ms. Griffin that Respondent was to start in an attorney position at a salary of $85,000 per year. (Tr. 218, 252). At the time Respondent started his contract position, there was not a permanent position for him that paid $85,000. Accordingly, a new job description was established for a Senior Public Service Administrator with a four-year term limit. (Tr. 220-221). The duties and responsibilities were provided by Ms. Staggers and then put into the proper format on the job description form and submitted to CMS for approval. (Tr. 223). The position required three years of professional experience in the practice of law. (Adm. Ex. 14; Resp. Ex. 2b).
A special salary adjustment form was then submitted for Respondent. (Tr. 227; Adm. Ex. 14; Resp. Ex. 2a). According to Ms. Griffin, a salary 10% over an employee's prior salary would require a special salary adjustment. (Tr. 227; Resp. Exs. 6a, 6b). After submitting the appropriate forms, Ms. Griffin still did not receive approval for Respondent's requested salary
because there was a question as to whether the salary listed for Codevco on Respondent's CMS 100 was $1800/week or $800/week. (Tr. 235-236; Adm. Exs. 1, 11, 14).
As a result, CMS requested verification of the amount. Verification could be in the form of an income tax return, a W-2 statement, or a signed statement on the employer's letterhead. (Tr. 237). Ms. Griffin testified she requested the verification several times and received it a few months later. (Tr. 237-238). After receiving the letter from Codevco, Ms. Griffin forwarded it to CMS. (Tr. 238; Adm. Ex. 2). Ultimately the increase was approved. (Tr. 256). Ms. Griffin testified that if she had received the verification letter from Codevco initially, she would not have had to submit the special salary adjustment form on behalf of Respondent. (Tr. 253-254).
Ms. Stahlman is currently employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections as the manager of the Office of Employee Screening. In 2001, Ms. Stahlman was a Labor Relations Regional Administrator for DCFS. About a year later, she became Chief of Labor Relations. In January 2003, she was temporarily assigned as Chief of Employee Services, and later returned to her position as Chief of Labor Relations. (Tr. 153-156).
According to Ms. Stahlman, when Ms. Staggers started at DCFS she asked Ms. Stahlman to process the paperwork to hire Respondent. Ms. Staggers also set Respondent's salary. (Tr. 170, 175-176). Ms. Staggers wanted Respondent in a contract position until a term position was created for him. (Tr. 173-174). Accordingly, Respondent's salary was set prior to the term position and even before Respondent started under the contract position. (Tr. 174-177). Ms. Stahlman believed Ms. Staggers spoke for the Governor's office. (Tr. 168-169).
At some point there was a question regarding Respondent's previous employment and salary and Ms. Stahlman asked Respondent for verification. (Tr. 158-160). According to Ms.
Stahlman, the verification was needed in order for Respondent to move from the contract position to the term position. (Tr. 159-160). She requested this information from Respondent a few times over a several month period. (Tr. 161). Ms. Stahlman reviewed the letter from Codevco in late 2003 and testified it contained the information that was needed. (Tr. 162).
Respondent never advised Ms. Stahlman that the information on his CMS 100 and resume were inaccurate. (Tr. 161). Ms. Stahlman did not learn about the false statements on Respondent's CMS 100 until after she left DCFS. (Tr. 163).
Ms. Staggers testified she never advised Respondent to falsify any information on the CMS 100. (Tr. 316). Ms. Staggers acknowledged she requested Ms. Griffin establish a position for Respondent, but denied she set Respondent's salary at $85,000 and denied requesting anyone prepare paperwork to that effect. (Tr. 319-322). She admitted she gave direction to obtain a special salary exemption for Respondent. (Tr. 323). According to Ms. Staggers, Respondent told her he made more at Codevco than what he listed on the CMS 100. (Tr. 331-332).
Dixie Lee Peterson
Ms. Peterson has been a licensed attorney in Illinois since 1975. (Tr. 387). In 2000, Ms. Peterson became Deputy General Counsel for DCFS. (Tr. 388). In 2005, Ms. Peterson prepared paperwork placing Respondent on paid administrative leave and later prepared paperwork reinstating Respondent. (Tr. 394). In 2006, Ms. Peterson prepared paperwork to recommend Respondent's term be renewed. At that time, she did not know Respondent had made false statements on the CMS 100. (Tr. 397-398). After Respondent's term expired in July 2007, Ms. Peterson was involved in efforts to rehire him, but she was not aware Respondent had made false statements on his CMS 100. (Tr. 405-407).
B. Analysis and Conclusions
The Court has stated, "There is essentially no way to define every act or form of conduct that would be considered a violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4). Each case is unique and the circumstances surrounding the respondent's conduct must be taken into consideration." In re Cutright, 233 Ill. 2d 474, 490, 910 N.E.2d 581 (2009).
Respondent admitted he included false statements on the CMS 100 and his resume and then submitted those documents in support of his application for a position at DCFS. Most importantly, Respondent admitted he knew the statements were false at the time he signed the CMS 100 certifying his answers as true and correct and at the time he submitted the documents. Specifically, contrary to what he provided on the CMS 100 and his resume, Respondent admitted he was not employed by Codevco, that he was not legal counsel at Codevco advising on information technology contracts, and that he never worked 40 hours per week at Codevco.
The Administrator also established that Respondent misrepresented his work history in an effort to show he had the three years of legal experience required for his position at DCFS. Further, Respondent lists his reason for leaving Gordon and Glickson as "Family." However, Respondent admitted he was asked to leave that firm because he was not meeting his billing requirements.
We also find Respondent acted in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4) when he submitted the letter verifying his employment at Codevco signed by his father. Respondent admitted he was upset by the request to verify his Codevco employment and had to be asked for the letter several times. Respondent admitted he was never an attorney for Codevco, never received a salary from Codevco, and indeed was never an employee of Codevco. Nevertheless he asked his father for a letter verifying employment that he knew never occurred.
The Panel was presented with a good deal of extraneous evidence relating to alleged improper hiring practices at DCFS. However, Respondent was not charged with creating or implementing these policies. It is probably true that Respondent would have obtained the position and higher salary at DCFS without the misrepresentations because of his campaign work and political associations. In addition, there was ample evidence showing that Respondent performed his job well. However, whether Respondent could have gotten the job at DCFS without the false statements or whether Respondent's job performance could have justified his salary is not the issue. The issue before this Panel is whether Respondent violated Rule 8.4(a)(4). For the reasons stated above, we find by clear and convincing evidence that he did.
II. Respondent is charged with inducing another (Ivan Novick) to engage in conduct, or giving assistance to Ivan Novick, when he knew that conduct would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(2).
A. Evidence Considered
We consider the evidence presented in section I in addition to the following.
Respondent's father, Ivan Novick, testified that Codevco was an entity that developed residential real estate in Florida. (Tr. 275). When Codevco became involved in a legal action, Respondent reviewed documents relevant to that matter beginning in February or March 2003 at an hourly rate of $45. (279-280). Mr. Novick could not recall how long Respondent reviewed documents, but believed the project lasted for at least six weeks, but no longer than three months. (Tr. 281, 305-307).
Mr. Novick acknowledged he drafted the letter verifying Respondent's income at Codevco and sent it to Ms. Griffin. (Tr. 283; Adm. Ex. 2; Resp. Ex. 5). The letter dated December 19, 2003, stated:
Please be advised that Corey Novick performed legal/consulting services for Codevco for which he was compensated at the rate of $45 per hour. He worked part-time for Codevco and his compensation was equivalent to $1,800 per week. (Adm. Ex. 2; Resp. Ex. 5).
Mr. Novick denied discussing the contents of the letter with Respondent before sending it to Ms. Griffin and denied ever sending the letter to Respondent. When Respondent asked Mr. Novick for the letter, Respondent did not tell him what to say in the letter or what dollar amount to include. (Tr. 284-285). Mr. Novick testified that everything contained in the letter is true and accurate. (Tr. 286).
Mr. Novick did not know how many hours Respondent worked on the document review and did not recall the total amount Respondent was paid. (Tr. 293). He has no documents showing the number of hours Respondent worked or the amounts he was paid. (Tr. 296). Codevco is now dissolved. (Tr. 312).
Mr. DiMatteo is Chairman and Trustee of Dodi Management Group. (Tr. 453). According to Mr. DiMatteo, Respondent reviewed documents for Codevco. (Tr. 456). Mr. Novick advised Mr. DiMatteo that Respondent needed a letter regarding Codevco's payments to Respondent and Mr. DiMatteo approved sending the letter. (Tr. 456-457).
Respondent testified he has spoken with his father on a daily basis for the last two decades. His dad is "the greatest man that [he] know[s]." (Tr. 113). Respondent did not see the letter until years after it was written. (Tr. 119). He never discussed the content of the letter with his father. (Tr. 120)
B. Analysis and Conclusions
We previously found that Respondent acted in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4) when he submitted the letter verifying his employment at Codevco signed by his father. He admitted that he knew that by providing the letter he was providing information that was not true. Respondent admitted he was never an attorney for Codevco, never received a salary from Codevco, and indeed was never an employee of Codevco. Nevertheless he asked his father for a letter verifying employment that he knew never occurred. Given those admissions, Respondent's testimony that he did not recall the conversation he had with his father about the letter and that he never discussed the content of the letter is simply not credible.
Mr. Novick testified that Respondent worked for Codevco in February or March 2003 reviewing documents in preparation for litigation. Although he remembered the hourly rate Respondent was paid, he could not remember the duration of the document review project, how many hours Respondent worked or the total amount Respondent was paid. We acknowledge Codevco is now dissolved and did not retain documents from ten years ago. However, at the time Mr. Novick wrote the letter, he would have had access to documents verifying Respondent's employment from earlier that year. In the letter he wrote 10 years earlier and only a few months after Respondent's purported employment, Mr. Novick did not provide the dates of Respondent's employment, how many hours Respondent actually worked or the total amount Respondent was paid.
In his letter to DCFS, Mr. Novick characterized Respondent's work for Codevco as "legal/consulting services." This characterization sounds more like Respondent's false statements on the CMS 100, i.e. that he advised on legal matters at Codevco, rather than the document review he supposedly performed. Similarly, Mr. Novick stated that Respondent worked part-time, but stated his salary was $1800 per week. In order to receive $1,800 per work
at an hourly rate of $45, Respondent would have had to work 40 hours per week. This certainly is not part-time work. Moreover, Respondent was working 70 hours per week at Resolute Consulting during this same time period.
Lastly, it is significant that Mr. Novick gratuitously calculated Respondent's compensation to be the equivalent of $1800 per week in his letter. Ms. Griffin testified that Respondent's special salary adjustment was initially not approved because it was difficult to determine whether he listed his salary at Codevco as $800 per week or $1800 per week on his CMS 100. Although Mr. Novick denies discussing the contents of the letter with Respondent before sending it to Ms. Griffin, the letter resolves the exact question presented for clarification. As a result, we find his testimony incredible.
Accordingly, we find Respondent induced his father to engage in conduct, or gave assistance to his father's conduct, when he knew that conduct would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct in violation of Rule 8.(4)(a)(2).
EVIDENCE OFFERED IN AGGRAVATION AND MITIGATION
Respondent was removed from the Master Roll on February 10, 2003, for failure to register and pay the registration fee. He was reinstated on March 27, 2003. (Tr. 61). He was again removed from the Master Roll on February 3, 2004, for failure to register and pay the registration fee, and reinstated on February 23, 2005. During this latter period, Respondent was working as an attorney for DCFS. (Tr. 63). Respondent testified he simply forgot to register and pay his registration fees. When he realized his mistake, he paid the fees. (Tr. 126).
Respondent testified he had feelings of helplessness and depression starting in high school. (Tr. 88). From 1998 through 2003, Respondent treated with a psychiatrist and therapist and took medication. He stated that during that time he had disturbing thoughts where he
"would think about doing some harm." Respondent believed this interfered with his work. (Tr. 89). When he became unemployed in 2002, the disturbing thoughts "resurfaced." (Tr. 91).
In October 2005, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") visited Respondent at his home. (Tr. 65-66). According to Respondent, the purpose of the visit was to investigate hiring improprieties at DCFS. (Tr. 66). At that time, Respondent was not asked to and did not provide any information regarding the false statements on his CMS 100. (Tr. 66).
Respondent testified that he called the FBI agents the next day because he believed they were not asking the right questions about the complicated personnel process at the State of Illinois and believed he could offer them some assistance. (Tr. 126-127). He met with agents and members of the U.S. Attorney's office on two more occasions in 2006. (Adm. Exs. 7, 8). During those meetings, Respondent was represented by counsel. He was again asked questions regarding hiring improprieties at DCFS and admitted he had included false statements on his CMS 100. (Tr. 66-68). Respondent's counsel was later served with a grand jury subpoena requesting Respondent's CMS 100. (Adm. Ex. 3). Respondent believes he was cooperative and provided all requested information. (Tr. 77-78).
Respondent and Ms. Staggers were placed on paid administrative leave in the fall of 2005 after the issuance of a subpoena to DCFS by the U.S. Attorney. They were both reinstated but assigned to different positions. (Tr. 333). Respondent was assigned to the Office of Legal Services and became one of the attorneys in the Administrative Hearings Litigation Unit handling primarily expungement hearings. At some point thereafter, Respondent became supervisor of the Subpoena Processing Unit. (Tr. 395-396).
In 2008, Respondent filed a complaint in federal court against DCFS, Robin Staggers, and Victor Roberson alleging he was not rehired because he was a whistleblower in reporting
illegal activities to the FBI. The matter was resolved in 2012 by way of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. (Tr. 134-135; Adm. Ex. 5; Resp. Ex. 7).
According to Ms. Stahlman, when Respondent initially joined the DCFS staff he got along with Ms. Staggers, but then the relationship deteriorated. (Tr. 200). Ms. Stahlman testified that the relationship deteriorated because Respondent stood up to Ms. Staggers and refused to follow Ms. Staggers' direction if it involved illegal conduct or anything verging on illegal conduct. (Tr. 208-209).
When an employee advised Ms. Staggers that her requests were a violation of the personnel rules, Ms. Staggers would scream and swear. When Ms. Stahlman showed Ms. Staggers the paperwork showing that Ms. Staggers had approved Respondent's position as a four-year appointment, she called Ms. Stahlman a liar, accused her of inappropriate conduct and threw Respondent's personnel file at her. (Tr. 201-3). Ms. Stahlman said Ms. Staggers was intimidating, described her as a bully, and said it was difficult for employees to stand up to her. (Tr. 204-205).
Respondent has provided pro bono assistance, but did not recall the specifics. (Tr. 136-137). He has no prior discipline.
Mr. Powell is an attorney. (Tr. 460). He first met Respondent in 2009 when he shared office space with him. (Tr. 461-463). Mr. Powell considers Respondent to be a great friend and business associate and has never known Respondent to breach a "very high standard of character." (Tr. 463). Mr. Powell trusted Respondent's integrity, honesty, and ability to handle his cases when Mr. Powell was ill. (Tr. 464). Mr. Powell has never discussed Respondent's reputation for truthfulness and veracity with others in the legal community. (Tr. 467).
Courtnay C. O'Connell
Ms. O'Connell has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1991. (Tr. 469). Ms. O'Connell worked with Respondent at DCFS and never had any reason to doubt his honesty or credibility. (Tr. 471). She has never heard anything in the legal community to doubt Respondent's good character. (Tr. 471-472).
According to Ms. O'Connell, Respondent was assigned as her co-counsel on a litigation matter. Shortly before the case was going to hearing, Respondent told her he had not paid his registration fee with the ARDC. As a result, Ms. O'Connell tried the case on her own and Respondent appeared as the agency representative. (Tr. 473-474).
Mr. Alberg has been licensed to practice law since 1989 and worked with Respondent at DCFS. (Tr. 478). He testified Respondent always practiced with the highest integrity and he found him to be an upstanding person. (Tr. 480).
Ms. Diamond testified she has been licensed to practice law since 2000 and worked with Respondent at DCFS. (Tr. 491-492). According to Ms. Diamond, Respondent was very reliable and a good colleague. (Tr. 494).
The purpose of the attorney disciplinary system is not to punish the attorney for his misconduct, but "to protect the public, maintain the integrity of the legal profession, and protect the administration of justice from reproach." In re Winthrop, 219 Ill. 2d 526, 559, 848 N.E.2d 961 (2006). In determining the appropriate sanction, we consider the nature and seriousness of the misconduct and any aggravating and mitigating circumstances shown by the evidence. See In re Gorecki, 208 Ill. 2d 350, 802 N.E.2d 1194 (2003).
In aggravation, Respondent had numerous opportunities both before and during his employment at DCFS to rectify his dishonest statements, but he never took any steps to do so. Then, after his term expired, he attempted to get rehired and still did not admit his transgressions. We are particularly troubled and dismayed that this type of misconduct would occur at an agency charged with such an important mission.
The Administrator contends Respondent's failure to register should be considered in aggravation. We may consider uncharged conduct in aggravation when it is similar to the current charges or illustrates a pattern and practice of misconduct and is established by evidence in the record. In re Storment, 203 Ill. 2d 378, 786 N.E.2d 963 (2002). Respondent's failure to register was certainly established in the record. Moreover, we find Respondent's failure to register illustrates a pattern of dishonesty and lack of integrity. He testified that he simply forgot to register and pay his fees on two occasions. However, his eve of trial admission to his co-counsel at DCFS belies that testimony. As a result, we consider it in aggravation.
In mitigation, Respondent admitted to the FBI that his statements on the CMS 100 were false and assisted in its investigation of DCFS hiring practices. He also admitted to his co-counsel that he was not registered and could not participate in a hearing, thereby avoiding prejudice to his client. He also presented favorable character testimony and has no prior discipline. We acknowledge Respondent's testimony that he has struggled with depression for many years. However, given the lack of medical evidence supporting this testimony, we consider this factor on a limited basis.
Relying on In re Posterli, 89 CH 520, M.R. 7407 (May 24, 1991), In re Goodman, 93 CH 492, M.R. 11497 (Sept. 29, 1995), and In re Friedman, 08 CH 32, M.R. 23720 (May 18, 2010), the Administrator recommends Respondent be suspended for nine months.
In Posterli, the attorney was disciplined for misconduct committed before and after he was licensed to practice law. While in law school, Posterli included numerous false statements about grade point average, class rank, and academic honors and awards on his resume. Moreover, he obtained employment at a law firm based on this fraudulent resume and included the misrepresentations of his credentials in a firm brochure. He later prepared a second resume containing the first resume's false statements and included additional false statements about his work history. Posterli admitted he knew his resume was inaccurate when he prepared it and admitted he engaged in misconduct. He was suspended for six months.
The attorney in Goodman accepted payments of over $30,000 over two and a half years for a job at the City of Chicago Clerk's Office, but performed minimal services. Although he initially believed there would be more work, he continued to accept payments after he admittedly knew that the payments were improper. Goodman also knew that he was expected to perform services unrelated to the Clerk's office, in return for compensation from the Clerk's office. In addition, on three separate occasions, Goodman made payments, and gave a gratuity, to an individual who assisted him in obtaining the employment. Further, he signed a false residency affidavit. Based upon these activities, he was convicted of a federal offense.
Although Goodman initially misrepresented facts to the FBI, he arranged a second meeting to rectify his statements and cooperated in a federal investigation of the Clerk's Office. He also voluntarily began making restitution to the City, at a time when he was not required to do so and voluntarily terminated his relationship with the Clerk's Office. He received a one-year suspension.
The attorney in Friedman provided false information on his law school application, changed his grades on his law school transcripts and submitted the altered transcripts to
prospective employers, and failed to disclose information regarding these activities on his Illinois Character and Fitness questionnaire. Freidman presented favorable character testimony and was remorseful. Nevertheless, the Court suspended him for three years and until further order of the Court.
Respondent directs the Panel to consider In re Meyer, 08 CH 14, M.R. 24889 (Nov. 22, 2011), and In re VanHooreweghe, 03 SH 6, M.R. 19989 (May 19, 2005), but offers no suggestion regarding sanction.
In Meyer, the attorney engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by filing a medical malpractice complaint in the State of Michigan. He was also found to have instructed his secretary to list his clients as pro se plaintiffs and provide a false address on the complaint. Meyer neglected to file the complaint with the requisite certificate of merit and then continued to neglect the matter. Finally, he misrepresented the status of the matter to his clients. Meyer was suspended for four months.
VanHooreweghe filed three matters in Iowa using the name of an attorney licensed in Iowa without that attorney's consent. He also forged the signature of that attorney on a pleading, had his wife/secretary notarize the signature, and filed the pleading with a tribunal. VanHooreweghe never denied his misconduct and presented significant mitigation including impressive character witnesses, pro bono work, community and military service, and a long legal career with no prior discipline. He was suspended for six months.
Sanctions imposed in cases involving misrepresentations by attorneys have ranged, depending on the circumstances of the case, from censure to disbarment. See In re Chandler, 161 Ill. 2d 459, 641 N.E.2d 473 (1994). One of the factors to consider is whether the dishonest conduct was used for the attorney's advantage. See In re Stern, 124 Ill. 2d 310, 529 N.E.2d 562
(1988). In this matter, Respondent's false statements on the CMS 100 and the letter submitted by his father certainly were used to Respondent's advantage as they assisted him in keeping his position at DCFS at a salary higher than his prior earnings justified. As a result, we believe a suspension is warranted.
We do not find the cases submitted by Respondent particularly instructive. In addition, while the conduct involved in the cases presented by the Administrator is more similar to the present matter, it is significantly more extensive and egregious. Accordingly, after considering the nature of the Respondent's misconduct, the evidence in mitigation and aggravation, and the precedent discussed above, we recommend that the Respondent, Corey Michael Novick, be suspended for sixty days.
William E. Hornsby, Jr.
I, Kenneth G. Jablonski, Clerk of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois and keeper of the records, hereby certifies that the foregoing is a true copy of the Report and Recommendation of the Hearing Board, approved by each Panel member, entered in the above entitled cause of record filed in my office onApril 10, 2014.
Kenneth G. Jablonski, Clerk of the
1On the second day of the hearing, November 20, 2013, Counsel for the Administrator was granted leave to strike the phrase, "which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute and which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770," from the introductory paragraph of the Complaint, pursuant to In re Karavidas, 2013 IL 115767. (Tr. 381-382).
2On the second day of the hearing, November 20, 2013, Counsel for the Administrator was granted leave to strike the charge contained in paragraph 31(c), pursuant to In re Karavidas, 2013 IL 115767. (Tr. 382).
3The Chair allowed Ms. Diamond to testify by telephone. (Tr. 383-384).
4The Chair denied Novick's Motion for Partial Directed Verdict at the Close of the Administrator's Case as to its Claim of Concealment at the conclusion of the evidence. The motion was directed to one allegation rather than to the charge of engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation pursuant to Rule 8.4(a)(4). The Chair reasoned that the Panel would consider all the evidence presented to determine whether the Administrator met his burden proving this charge. (Tr. 498).