ARDC Hearing Board Recommends One-year Suspension For Lawyer Who Converted Settlement Funds

The case is In re Adebayo Olusgun Adesina, 17 PR 0097.

This is a simple case where the lawyer obtained a settlement for the client, but converted some of the settlement funds.

The ARDC Hearing Board found some of the charges unproven but did find the respondent failed to safeguard client funds and engaged in dishonest conduct with the client.  The Hearing Board recommended a one-year suspension.

The Key finding is this one:

2. Rule 1.15(a) Safeguarding Funds
Rule 1.15(a) requires lawyers 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. Funds must be held in a client trust account that meets the requirements set forth in Rule 1.15. Ill. Rs. Prof’l Conduct, R. 1.15(a) (2010). Respondent’s admissions and the evidence presented at hearing establish by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent violated this Rule.
Prior to disbursing funds owed to Blossom and third parties, the balance of Respondent’s client trust account fell below the amount Respondent should have been holding on numerous occasions. Respondent admitted he transferred funds from his client trust account to his checking account from which he paid personal and business expenses. This conduct was a clear violation of Rule 1.15(a).
3. Rule 8.4(c) Dishonest Conduct
Rule 8.4(c) prohibits attorneys from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Ill. Rs. Prof’l Conduct, R. 8.4(c) (2010). Respondent’s admissions and the evidence presented at hearing established that over several months Respondent intentionally took funds he knew belonged to Blossom and third parties. Respondent treated his client trust account as a personal account, going so far as to empty the client trust account on December 13, 2016. In addition, Respondent falsely stated to Blossom in October 2016 that all of her settlement funds were available in his client trust account when he knew that was not true. Accordingly, we find the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent acted dishonestly.

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