ARDC Hearing Board Recommends 30-day (Stayed) Suspension for Agreement Not to contact ARDC

IRPC 8.4(h) prohibits a lawyer from making any agreement with a client that the client not contact the ARDC.  The lawyer admitted to violating the rule. The Panel found as follows: “

Based upon the above, we find the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent entered into an agreement with a client or former client limiting or purporting to limit the right of the client or former client to file or pursue any complaint before the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission; in violation of Rule 8.4(h) of the Illinois Rules Professional Conduct (2010).”

The ARDC also charged the lawyer with wrongfully revealing information concerning the representation of a client without the client’s consent. The lawyer attached a confidential letter to a client to a pleading. The allegations are as follows:

Respondent testified that she began representing John Quincy Adams IV in May 2015, for charges against him in Monroe County, Illinois. Adams was charged with unlawful possession of less than 5 grams of methamphetamine, driving under the influence, and illegal transportation of alcohol. She also filed a replevin action on his behalf for the return of money seized from him at the time of his arrest (2015 MR 23). The replevin was successful and the money was refunded to Adams. (Tr. 50, 98, 101; Adm. Ex. 2 at 6).
Respondent said she did a “lot of work” for Adams and indicated she represented him well. (Tr. 52). Her replevin motion resulted in the return of the money seized from Adams at the time of his arrest. (Tr. 98, 101). She also prepared and filed a motion to suppress on behalf of Adams. While preparing the motion to suppress, she spoke with Adams for “numerous hours.” (Tr. 101-102 ). The motion to suppress was ultimately withdrawn with the consent of Adams. (Adm. Ex. 2 at 22, 73).
At Adams’ request, Respondent also filed a motion for election by Adams for an evaluation and drug treatment by TASC as an alternative to incarceration. (Tr. 56, 103; Adm. Ex. 2 at 28). On February 24, 2016, the judge ordered Adams to undergo a TASC evaluation to determine if he was eligible for the drug treatment. (Tr. 56, 63, 104; Adm. Ex. 2 at 30). Upon receiving the judge’s order, Respondent immediately informed Adams. Adams replied that the result was “great.” (Tr. 104).
Respondent and Adams appeared in court on March 2, 2016. At that time, the judge asked Adams why he had not complied with the judge’s order to appear for the evaluation. As a result of Adams’ failure to appear for the evaluation, the judge entered an order for Adams to
appear on April 14, 2016, for a plea. (Adm. Ex. 2 at 31). Respondent was concerned about this result, but still believed it was possible for Adams to get probation. (Tr. 56, 57, 105-106). There was “no discord” between her and Adams at any time during the court proceeding or as they were leaving the court house, and no indication Adams was considering firing her as his attorney. (Tr. 85, 105).
Respondent said that prior to the evening of March 2, 2016, Adams was “nothing but pleasant” to her. (Tr. 98). However, on the evening of March 2, 2016, Respondent and Adams had a telephone conversation. During their conversation, Adams was “glib,” engaged in a “rant,” and told her he had made up his mind to fire her. Adams told her he was going to get her in trouble and that he had filed a complaint against her. She could hear people laughing in the background. (Tr. 65, 80, 86-88).
On March 2, 2016, following her telephone conversation with Adams, Respondent prepared a letter, which is the subject of the disciplinary Complaint. (Tr. 83, 88; Adm. Ex. 2 at 37-38). She said she was “in a blur” and “upset” because of the rant by Adams during the telephone conversation. Her letter contains various accusations against Adams. She was particularly upset because Adams had insisted she file the motion for treatment, she prepared and filed the motion, and then Adams failed to appear for evaluation after the motion was granted. She added that such motions are “not easily sought” and “not easily rendered.” She also felt that the “trail that I gave Mr. Adams was enough for him to get probation.” She mailed the letter to Adams the following day. (Tr. 56-57, 61, 109).
Respondent received a notice that the court had set a hearing on March 10, 2016, for Adams’ motion to dismiss counsel. (Adm. Ex 2 at 33). However, Respondent did not receive a copy of the handwritten motion to dismiss her that was filed by Adams. (Adm. Ex. 2 at 32). In
fact, Respondent said she did not see Adams’ handwritten motion until “today,” that is the day she testified in this disciplinary matter. (Tr. 60-61, 90). Even though she had not read Adams’ handwritten motion, Respondent prepared an answer to the motion to dismiss counsel, which was filed with the court on March 9, 2016. (Adm. Ex. 2 at 36). She attached to her answer the letter she had prepared and previously sent to Adams. (Adm. Ex. 2 at 37-38).
Respondent explained that she filed the letter “disclosing stuff” about Adams out of “just frustration” and that “I don’t even talk like that.” (Tr. 110). She further explained that she filed the letter because she was “enraged,” and in a “rage of emotion” (Tr. 62, 66, 109). One of things she was upset about was that Adams said he was “going to get me in trouble” and “wanted to ruin me.” (Tr. 65, 69). She was also upset because Adams had fired her after she had “sacrificed my other cases in Monroe County and in Illinois for Mr. Adams.” (Tr. 69-70). She further explained that she “reacted on, I guess, my own personal hurt.” (Tr. 72).
Respondent acknowledged that the letter she filed with the court (Adm. Ex. 2 at 37-38) contains confidential information that may not be disclosed without her client’s consent. (Tr. 67). She also acknowledged that her filing of the letter was “wrong” and that she “was not justified” in filing it. (Tr. 62, 67, 70). Further, Respondent said “I wrote that terrible letter that I’m apologizing for.” (Tr. 62).
Respondent and Adams appeared at a hearing on March 10, 2016, but no testimony was heard. The judge simply granted Respondent leave to withdraw as Adams’ attorney. (Tr. 72-73, 92-94; Adm. Ex. 2 at 39).

The ARDC Hearing Board held that the letter constituted violation of Rule 1.6(a) because the lawyer revealed “information to the representation of a client with the informed consent of the client and without the disclosure being otherwise permitted.”

The ARDC Hearing Board recommended a 30-day suspension stayed in its entirety for a sixty day periof of probation. The Panel recommended that the attorney affiliate with an experienced lawyer who should could contact to seek advice if she ran into a difficult situation.

Comment: this strikes me as a humane result, given that the actions, while violations of Rule 8.4(g) and 1.6(a) did not cause serious harm to the client involved.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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