Illinois Asserts Jurisdiction Over Violations That Occurred in Michigan

This is a rarity at the ARDC Hearing Board. The prosecution of a lawyer who engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Michigan. The respondent lawyer is licensed in both Illinois and Michigan and he did not answer the charges.

The Majority:

The allegations were that the respondent improperly handled a bankruptcy in Michigan when he was not admitted in Illinois. The respondent also made false statements to the bankruptcy judge about the status of his license. The bankruptcy case he filed was dismissed because the filing was deficient.

The majority explains:

Supreme Court Rule 756(a) requires that every attorney admitted to practice law in Illinois, with stated exceptions that do not apply to Respondent, register and pay an annual registration fee to the ARDC on or before the first day of January of each year. Supreme Court Rule 756(g) provides that the Administrator, on February 1 of each year, remove from the master roll of attorneys authorized to practice law in Illinois the name of any attorney who has not registered for the year as required by Supreme Court Rule 756(a). This rule further states that any person whose name is not on the master roll and who practices law or holds himself out as being authorized to practice law in Illinois has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.
On October 13, 2013, the Administrator mailed a 2014 registration form to Respondent at the last business address listed by him on his Illinois attorney registration. He received the registration form shortly thereafter. As of February 1, 2014, Respondent had not registered with the ARDC for 2014 pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 756. On that date, the Administrator sent him a final notice of registration, which he received shortly thereafter.
As of March 12, 2014, Respondent had not registered with the ARDC for 2014 pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 756, and, on that date, the Administrator removed his name from the roll. On March 14, 2014, the ARDC sent Respondent a Notice of Removal from Master Roll informing him that his name had been removed from the roll of licensed attorneys in Illinois as a result of his failure to register and pay his registration fees. He received the notice shortly thereafter. At no time between March 12, 2014, and October 20, 2015, was Respondent authorized to practice law in Illinois. Respondent also has not been admitted to practice law in any state jurisdictions other than Illinois.
On January 18, 2012, Respondent was admitted to practice law before the USDC-EDM. According to LR83.20 of the USDC-EDM rules, attorneys must report to the chief judge any change in the status of his permission to practice law in any other jurisdiction in order to maintain eligibility to practice law in the USDC-EDM. At no time between March 12, 2014, and October 20, 2015, did Respondent inform the Chief Judge of the USDC-EDM that his name had been removed from the roll of attorneys in Illinois for failure to register. Since Respondent did not report his removal from the roll in Illinois to the Chief Judge of the USDC-EDM, he was ineligible to practice law in the USDC-EDM after March 12, 2014, and he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by representing others in cases in the USDC-EDM subsequent to that date.

The majority recommended a suspension of one year and until further order of court. Panel Member Champ Davis, of Davis McGrath, dissented. What he had to say is interesting:

In this action the Administrator wants to suspend a non-resident attorney for one year and until further order of the Court notwithstanding that the attorney is not authorized to practice law in Illinois and was not authorized to practice in Illinois at the time of the misconduct. Moreover, the misconduct occurred entirely within the state of Michigan.
I dissent on the ground that I do not believe this matter is properly before the Illinois disciplinary authorities. The misconduct should be dealt with by the Michigan disciplinary authorities — not the Illinois ARDC. Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct 8.5(a) provides in relevant part that “A lawyer not admitted in this jurisdiction (i.e., Michigan) is also subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction if the lawyer provides or offers to provide any legal services in this jurisdiction.”
The misconduct alleged in this case arose solely from services which Respondent provided in Michigan. Respondent was disbarred from practice before the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for that misconduct. I respectfully suggest that the present case be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and that any further discipline of Respondent be left to the Michigan disciplinary authorities.

The dissent addresses an excellent question – what are the limits of the jurisdiction of the disciplinary authorities in one state. The ARDC believes, and the majority agreed, that if you are a member of the Illinois bar you can be disciplined in Illinois for violations that should really be the concern of Michigan. I think the dissent is correct. This is an issue, the unauthorized practice of law, that concerns Michigan. Illinois is making a mistake in asserting intergalactic jurisdiction here.
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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