A Cautionary Tale – Lawyer Reprimanded Where His Partner Converted Client Funds

BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD:

The attorney in this matter did not convert any client funds. He was essentially accused by the ARDC of failing to safeguard client funds because he was a signatory on the trust account and did not prevent his law partner from converting funds.

The Joint Stipulation describes the violation and the mitigation in this way:

30.  By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failure to hold property of clients or third persons that is in the lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer’s own property, by conduct including transferring settlement proceeds belonging to Flores, Benefits Administration, and Smith-Jenkins from the firm’s client trust account into the firm’s operating account, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and,
  2. failure to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct, by conduct including failing to ensure that the firm instituted appropriate safekeeping measures for the firm’s clients’ funds, in violation of Rule 5.1(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).
  1. FACTORS IN MITIGATION

31. Respondent has not been previously disciplined, has acknowledged and expressed remorse for his conduct, has made restitution to Dziedziak’s clients, and has been cooperative throughout the disciplinary proceedings. Respondent was a Captain in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and continued his public service over the next 30 years as a U.S. Attorney, Administrative Law Judge, and as an attorney for the Illinois Department of Family Services.  Respondent also previously participated as a member of the Commission’s Hearing and Inquiry Boards and has provided pro bono legal services to indigent defendants in criminal matters.”



Comment: the issue here is that the lawyer failed to stop his partner from converting funds. It is an unusual disciplinary case but one that can happen to any lawyer who fails to stop a dishonest partner from converting funds. The respondent here appears to have used his own personal funds to reimburse all the clients who lost money.



Edward X. Clinton, Jr.



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