ARDC Charges Two Lawyers With Allowing Disbarred Lawyer to Use Their Offices to Practice

BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD:

The ARDC has charged two lawyers for assisting a disbarred lawyer in the unauthorized practice of law. Kathleen Niew was disbarred in November 2013. One of the lawyers charged was her husband, Stanley Niew.  Ms. Niew was convicted of converting $2.3 million in client funds. She was sentenced to six years in federal prison. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-radio-host-lawyer-sentencing-met-20150210-story.html

The Complaint alleges:

Between December 20, 2013 and about early June 2014, Ms. Niew communicated with at least two legal clients, John Vlahos (“Vlahos”) and Arno Reichel (“Reichel”), via the law firm email regarding Vlahos’ guardianship matter and Reichel’s estate planning matters, and she received at least two facsimiles on the law firm fax machine regarding those legal matters.
16. On December 10, 2013, Kelly Vos (“Vos”), an accountant who had joined Respondent Niew’s office in October 2013, sent Tichy an email, which Tichy forwarded to Respondent Niew that same date. The email from Vos stated:
Actually you need to hire someone else. I don’t feel comfortable with someone who has been disbarred for fraud and still is making contracts for new business. She should be home and I don’t believe some of the personal expenses should be paid by the company.
17. For six months after receiving the email that Vos sent to Tichy, described in paragraph 16, above, Respondent Niew did not take any action to insure that Ms. Niew did not maintain a presence in the Jorie Boulevard law office, and she continued to do so.
18. On May 8, 2014, the Administrator docketed an investigation against Respondent Niew based on concerns that he may have been assisting Ms. Niew in the unauthorized practice of law. On May 13, 2014, the Administrator sent Respondent Niew a letter asking him to address the Administrator’s concerns regarding Ms. Niew’s continued presence in the Jorie Boulevard law office and concerns that Ms. Niew had been meeting with clients. Respondent Niew received the letter shortly thereafter.
19. After receiving the Administrator’s May 8, 2014 letter, in June 2014, Respondent Niew took actions to insure that Ms. Niew did not maintain a physical presence in the Jorie Boulevard law office.
20. On June 18, 2014 Ms. Tichy sent Respondent Niew the following an email stating:
I am emailing you because I just took a phone call from a woman named Vena Gandhi at approximately 8:59am this morning.
Vena said that she had been texting with Kathleen Niew around 3-4pm yesterday afternoon and that KIN told her that she would be giving me (HMT) books approx. 10 books regarding retirement planning called The Retirement Miracle by Patrick Kelley and another called Tax Free Retirement and that Vena could come into our office today and pick-up the books…
I am not comfortable with KIN regularly giving out my name and telling people that they can/should call your office and to ask for me to schedule appointments with ARA and/or pick-up KIN’s books/docs from me.

22. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent Niew has engaged in the following misconduct:
a. conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, by conduct including, but not limited to, failing to take reasonable action necessary to insure that Ms. Niew did not maintain a presence in an office where the practice of law was conducted after the Illinois Supreme Court entered an order disbarring her as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 764, and allowing her to conduct meetings and to use the law firm email and fax machine in an office where the practice of law is conducted after her disbarment, by disregarding the Court’s order and processes in In re Niew, M.R. 26310, 2012PR000162 (November 20, 2013), and by failing to take action after receiving Vos’ email, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and
b. conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice by conduct including, but not limited to, failing to file a certification with the Clerk of the Supreme Court in In re Niew, M.R. 26310, 2012PR000162 (November 20, 2013) setting forth the actions taken to insure compliance with Supreme Court Rule 764(b), in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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